Strong Public Support for a Limit on Foreign Students

September 17, 2012

70% of the public want a limit on the number of foreign students admitted to Britain – that was the outcome of an opinion poll published by Migrationwatch today.

The question explained that about 250,000 foreign students from outside the EU arrive every year to study in Britain.  They pay the full cost of studying and provide universities and colleges with valuable income.  About one in five stay on legally after their studies and become long-term immigrants while others return home but, as there are still no exit checks, the number who have actually left is not known.  Thinking about this, respondents were asked whether there should be a limit on foreign student numbers in British colleges and universities.  70% said that there should be a limit while 22% said there should not and 7% did not know.    Support for a limit was strong across political parties according to respondents’ intention to vote, with 70% of Conservatives, 66% of Labour and 57% of Liberal Democrats in favour of a limit.  Unusually the strongest support was in Scotland at 76%, while the lowest was in London at 62%.  Women were more likely than men to favour a limit by 74% to 67%.

There was also strong support for action against bogus students.  70% thought that those found to have insufficient English for their courses should be deported.  84% considered that those found to be working rather than studying should be deported and 87% thought that those who had overstayed their visas after their course had finished should be deported.

There was also very strong support for firmer measures to prevent people coming to the UK as students if their real intention was to work.  This was supported by 85% (63% strongly) and opposed by 6%.

The Migration Observatory published a poll on 16th October 2011 which purported to show that only 30% of the public wanted to see a reduction in student immigration. In fact, their questions contained no factual or policy context. They simply asked whether the number of people in particular categories coming to the UK should be increased, reduced or kept the same. About one third thought that students should be reduced, 40% thought that they should remain the same, and only 15% want their number increased. This has been spun to suggest that the public were not concerned about student immigration. Today’s poll shows that, when the question is placed in context, they certainly are and that they broadly support the measures that the government has in hand.

Commenting, Sir Andrew Green, Chairman Migration Watch UK said “This gives the lie to those who have been claiming that the public are not concerned about student inflows.  When the questions are posed in their factual and policy context the public display the firm common sense that one would expect”.

Notes to Editors

1. Migration Observatory poll questions can be found in Appendix A of the report ‘Thinking Behind the Numbers: Understanding Public Opinion on Immigration in Britain’, October 2011.

URL: - Public Opinion.pdf

2. Students are by far the largest category of migrant to the UK. Non-EU students have roughly trebled in the past ten years, especially following the introduction of the Points Based System in 2008.

All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc.  Total sample size was 2,910 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 9th - 11th September 2012.  The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).

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