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Prime Minister urged to review international student regulations

Vice-Chancellors from 22 Alliance universities, and corresponding local chambers of commerce from across the UK, have written to the Prime Minister to urge a review of international student regulations that are threatening to impede economic growth.

Libby Hackett, Chief Executive of University Alliance, said:

“Counting international students separately within net migration figures was an important and positive move. Taking legitimate international university students outside of the immigration cap is the sensible next step, alongside improving the conditions of post-study work visas. This would bring the UK in line with many of its competitor countries and ensure that our sector can remain competitive.

“We need to send a strong message around the globe to say that the UK is open to any legitimate international students. Failure to act will risk the UK losing out to international competitors such as Canada and Australia, who are currently offering much more generous post-study visa conditions. Where Britain positions itself in the world now will have a huge impact on our future prosperity and success as the educator of choice.”

The letter in full

Dear Prime Minister,

We are writing to you jointly as Chambers of Commerce from across the UK and the 22 Vice-Chancellors of Alliance universities with a shared interest of ensuring that immigration regulations do not impede economic growth.

While we support measures to improve border controls and prevent abuse of the student visa route, the package and tone of recent reforms are already having a marked negative effect on the overseas student market. The recent announcement that the Government intends to publish international student numbers separately within net migration figures was a welcome step towards recognising that international student migration is distinct from permanent migration. However, we urge you to take the next step and remove international student numbers completely from net migration figures.

This is a key market for both universities and UK business and industry, and a proven successful export market for the UK – one of the most successful in the world. Damage to this market will have a detrimental economic, political and cultural impact at a time when we should be encouraging, not hindering, areas of strength and growth.

Overseas students benefit business through work placements or as permanent workers filling highly specialised skills needs, often in shortage areas, after graduation. These students are estimated to bring £8 billion to the UK annually. They also help to create an international environment for home students to study in, preparing them for the global workplace they will eventually graduate into.

When they return home, international students act as ambassadors for the UK – 76% of students graduating in 2012 indicated that they wished to establish links with UK business. The majority do, in fact, return home on completion of their studies or after a short period of postgraduate employment. These are not permanent migrants; they come to the UK for a limited time providing vital economic and cultural stimulus while they are here and beyond.

There is a compelling economic and cultural case not to use reductions in international students as a means of meeting net migration targets and to encourage them to come to the UK by making two-year post study work visas more easily available to them. This would be in line with our major international competitors in Australia and Canada who have made more post-study work visas available – a move that is already affecting our share of the market.

We would ask the Government to work with the sector on this important issue to explore ways of ensuring the UK remains open to international students.

Yours sincerely,

  • Prof. John Vinney, Vice-Chancellor, Bournemouth University
  • Prof. Mark Cleary, Vice-Chancellor, University of Bradford
  • Phil Smith, Managing Director, Business West
  • Prof. Anthony Chapman, Vice-Chancellor, Cardiff Metropolitan University
  • Prof. Dominic Shellard, Vice-Chancellor, De Montfort University
  • George Cowcher, Chief Executive, Derbyshire & Nottinghamshire Chamber of Commerce
  • Michael Regenhardt, President, Dorset Chambers of Commerce & Industry
  • Prof. Julie Lydon, Vice-Chancellor, University of Glamorgan
  • Stuart Patrick, Chief Executive, Glasgow Chamber of Commerce
  • Clive Memmott, Chief Executive, Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce
  • Prof. Pamela Gilles, Vice-Chancellor, Glasgow Caledonian Universit
  • Jimmy Chestnutt, Chief Executive, Hampshire Chamber of Commerce
  • Tim Hutchings, Chief Executive, Hertfordshire Chamber of Commerce
  • Prof. Quintin McKellar, Vice-Chancellor, University of Hertfordshire
  • Prof. Bob Cryan, Vice-Chancellor, University of Huddersfield
  • Prof. Julius Weinberg, Vice-Chancellor, Kingston University
  • Martin Traynor, Chief Executive, Leicestershire Chamber of Commerce
  • Prof. Mary Stuart, Vice-Chancellor, University of Lincoln
  • Simon Beardley, Chief Executive, Lincolnshire Chamber of Commerce
  • Carol Crosby, Chief Executive, Liverpool Chamber of Commerce
  • Prof. Nigel Weatherill, Vice-Chancellor, Liverpool John Moores University
  • Prof. John Brooks, Vice-Chancellor, Manchester Metropolitan University
  • James Ramsbotham, Chief Executive, North East Chamber of Commerce
  • Prof. Andrew Wathey, Vice-Chancellor, Northumbria University
  • Prof. Neil Gorman, Vice-Chancellor, Nottingham Trent University
  • Prof. Janet Beer, Vice-Chancellor, Oxford Brookes University
  • Prof. Wendy Purcell, Vice-Chancellor, Plymouth University
  • David Parlby, Chief Executive Officer, Plymouth Chamber of Commerce & Industry
  • Prof. John Craven, Vice-Chancellor, University of Portsmouth
  • Prof. Martin Hall, Vice-Chancellor, University of Salford
  • Richard Wright, Chief Executive, Sheffield Chamber of Commerce
  • Prof. Philip Jones, Vice-Chancellor, Sheffield Hallam University
  • Louise Punter, Chief Executive, Surrey Chambers of Commerce
  • Prof. Graham Henderson, Vice-Chancellor, Teesside University
  • Prof. Stephen Hagen, Vice-Chancellor, University of Wales, Newport
  • Prof. Steven West, Vice-Chancellor, University of the West of England



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