A target should be set for growing international student numbers in the UK, and a post-study work visa established to allow people to work in the UK for two years, an all-party parliamentary group has urged.
In its report, A Sustainable Future for International Students in the UK, published today, the All-Party Parliamentary Group for International Students also calls for a commitment to remove students from the target to reduce net migration.
There have long been calls for this from the FE sector. However, in September, the sector hit out at a “woefully insufficient” report by the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) on the impact of international students in the UK, which stopped short of recommending such a move.
With Brexit approaching, the government should also pursue an EU deal for unrestricted movement of students and researchers, and provide urgent clarity for EU nationals studying and researching in the UK on what changes they will experience in visa and funding rights, says today’s APPG report.
'Send out a message to international students'
Paul Blomfield MP, co-chair of the APPG, said: “Increasingly restrictive policies and procedures over the last eight years have discouraged many international students from applying to the UK. We need to press the reset button, establish an ambitious strategy to increase recruitment, put new policies in place, and send out a clear message that international students are welcome in the UK.”
He added: “Our report offers a way forward for the government, and a route-map to renewed competitiveness for our world-class universities and colleges. I urge ministers to look carefully at our recommendations and step up to the challenge.”
Other recommendations include:
- Immigration rules should facilitate and encourage students to study in the UK and at multiple study levels within the UK education system.
- The government should promote and protect the diversity of the UK education offer including small, specialist, vocational and further education providers within the proposed recruitment strategy.
- The UK government should work closely with devolved and regional governments to support growth in international student numbers, protect local courses and institutions which are dependent on international students, and support regional and national initiatives which enhance the benefit of international education such as work experience schemes and industry engagement.
- The government should accurately track data on education as an export and as an economic value, including at a national, regional and local level. Government should include education in their trade strategy when approaching bilateral agreements.
- Education institutions should share best practice across the education sector to enhance internationalisation strategies through maximising the advantages and benefits of having a diverse body of international students, as well as support more UK students to study abroad.