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Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Thinktank adds to pressure to take students out of net migration figures | News | Times Higher Education

Thinktank adds to pressure to take students out of net migration figures | News | Times Higher Education David Willetts' Conservative think tank Bright Blue is pushing back against mainstream Tory anti-immigration policies, by arguing that immigration quotas should disregard overseas student arrivals in the UK.

One interpretation is that the Universities have got their act together to lobby, as any business would, for policy changes that are in their interests, and have spoken to their Minister. He's got his think tank to fly a kite where other members of the Government will have to see it. (Why didn't he just stand up and say it ? Ah, sorry, that would only work in a functional government.)

For several years the Unis have presented consistent and compelling evidence that their fee income, and international stature, are under threat. Their nemesis is the Theresa May tendency in the Tory party - which would classify overseas students along with every other kind of foreign threat - in deference to immigration anxieties on the Right Wing of the party, and in parties like UKIP beyond them.

Arguments and evidence on student immigration are well rehearsed. An independent consultancy has assembled the policy case for boosting overseas student visits for the NUS. Oxford's Migration Observatory has done the numbers. Applications and entries from overseas learners are entering free fall - which terrifies the universities.

The other (less flattering) interpretation is that the Coalition will need to be able to present a tough story on immigration numbers at the election. Since politicians consistently overstate the reductions they will achieve, and then fail to meet their targets, they are expediently looking around for a justifiable fudge on the numbers. Excluding students from the count does the job.

What's being left out of this argument is the impact of international student flows on the learners themselves. Global classrooms are placing stresses on home students, and visiting students. The value, and the costs, of this approach to education are not being scrutinised.

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