Is the fall in net immigration due to a fall in student numbers?

November 29, 2012

Immigration data

The latest net migration statistics to March 2012 show a significant fall in net migration to 183,000 - a reduction of 59,000 from the figure for year ending March 2011.  According to the ONS News release “this reduction in immigration was largely due to fewer people arriving to study…”    In fact, the main reason was an increase in both British and non-EU emigration.    There was a fall in non EU immigration but only 12,000 of this came from a reduction of non-EU student immigration.

Visa data

Separately, student visa data was also published today and is more up to date as it includes the second and third quarters of 2012.  This data on applications for student visas is broken down by the type of institution; Higher education, further education, language schools and independent schools[1].

In the year ending September 2012 the total number of applications for student visas was 211,000 - a fall of 74,000 from the previous year.   However, it is important to segregate the different types of institution.

This overall fall was a result of applications to further education colleges falling from almost 100,000 in the whole year ending September 2011 to 33,000 in the following year.  Applications to universities (“Higher Education Institutions”) were actually up by 1% at 155,800 compared with 154,500 for the previous year.

The fall in applications to colleges reflects the tightening of the system as well as measures to tackle bogus colleges and bogus students.   To the extent that the fall is due to a reduction in bogus students, net migration will be unaffected in future years as those “students” would not have left in any case.

Commenting on these figures Sir Andrew Green, Chairman of Migration Watch UK, said “This is good news. It shows that the government can bring net migration down without damaging the valuable higher education sector.  The strident reaction of the universities to the government’s measures over the past year or two has done nothing to promote Britain’s reputation as a welcoming destination for study.”

[1] Certificates of Acceptance of Studies, table cs.07.q

Footnote:  The IPS data is still useless for estimating net student immigration.  These latest figures, taken at face value, would suggest that it was 157,000 in the year to Q1 2012.  This is because the survey still cannot distinguish between departing students and departing workers.  This deficiency is being corrected and the first estimate of net non EU student migration (for calendar 2012) will become available in August 2013.

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