Students have added 200,000 to the permanent population in the last seven years

July 21, 2017

The House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee has called on the government to improve the statistics on the number of students who leave the country and then for them to be removed from net migration ‘for public policy purposes’.

This is despite the fact that a report issued today by Migration Watch UK reveals that in the last seven years almost 200,000 grants of settlement were made to non-EU citizens who originally arrived through the student route.

The report is based on the findings of official Home Office analysis of migrants’ journeys through the immigration system which established that an average of 27,000 grants of settlement were made to people who arrived as students or student dependants in each of the years 2009-2015.

There is no doubt that the statistics on the number of students who remain in the country should be improved and the government should make use of the available exit check data. However, once we have an accurate picture of the contribution of students to net migration, they should remain in the target. Students have, after all, comprised half (600,000) of all non-EU inflow in the last five years, which has totalled 1.18 million.

Calls for students to be removed “for policy purposes” from the net migration statistics and the government target have relied on the claim that students are temporary migrants and therefore do not add to population growth. However the findings of today’s report underline the need for their inclusion since significant numbers remain for long periods and indeed go on to settle.

They must therefore be included to maintain the integrity of net migration statistics as an objective measure of population change as a result of international migration. It is also important to avoid any suspicion that politicians or academics are seeking to fiddle the figures.

Commenting, Lord Green of Deddington, Chairman of Migration Watch UK said:

It would be absurd to remove students from the net migration target when close to 200,000 grants of settlement in recent years were to former students. Graduates are no doubt valuable to our economy but, with immigration driving our population at the fastest annual rate for nearly 70 years, we must have an honest assessment of the contribution of students who stay on.

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