The United Kingdom’s immigration policies are reducing the number of foreign students who want to study in Britain, says an All-Party Parliamentary Group — and many of them are choosing Australia instead.
The Home Office has dealt with several years of criticism over the inclusion of students in immigration targets. While critics of the policies say that the UK is losing tuition revenue and economic benefits from foreign students coming to Britain to study, the Home Office maintains that, “All types of immigration have an impact.”
Indian students are flocking to Australia, and the country is happy to have their intellectual and economic contributions. A recently-released report by Deloitte Access Economics titled “The Value of International Education to Australia” puts the Australian international education market at ~$19.7 billion AUD/£10 billion.
Australian Minister for Tourism and International Education expressed his government’s continuing support of providing educational services to citizens of other countries:
“International education is already one of our top two services exports, along with tourism, and is one of five key super-growth sectors that will support our transitioning economy into the next decade.”
The meeting of the APPG found that Canada had become a more popular destination for international students than the United Kingdom, and that Australia’s strong growth in the sector makes it poised to take the lead in the near future. But while Australian government policy is to encourage the exploration of the social and cultural benefits to a growing international education sector, the UK has been reining it in.
In 2014, Home Secretary Theresa May ordered the deportation of nearly 50,000 students enrolled in UK institutions after an investigation found a large-scale cheating operation. A BBC Panorama report found that a host of recruiters and schools had fraudulently compromised the Test of English for International Communication (TOEIC) exam and that tens of thousands of students qualified wrongly. Their visas were revoked and they were sent home without regard to progress in their course of studies and ~100 institutions were closed.
A formal inquiry has been announced into Mrs. May’s decision and handling of the situation.
Another report in April found that over a period of three years, almost 100,000 students from outside the European Union had their student visas revoked in the UK. The Home Office released a statement that said it had:
“… cracked down on immigration abuse from poor quality institutions which were damaging the UK’s reputation as a provider of world-class education, whilst maintaining a highly competitive offer for international students who wish to study at our world-leading institutions.”
Even the debate over whether Britain should exit the European Union has included the country’s treatment of international students, with proponents of a Brexit saying that immigration limits on students are sensible, and opponents citing the need for more growth in the sector. Changes to international student patterns may also have a serious effect on housing and rental/property markets.
The National Union of Students has called factoring international students into net migration figures “scapegoating.”
Prime Minister David Cameron called in 2014 for a reduction of net migration to ~100,000 — a figure May thought was still too high, with the restrictions to the international student population an easy mark for curtailing what the Home Office sees as a burgeoning and unsustainable figure.
But through the APPG, concerned MPs are committing to a series of actions that they feel will improve the climate of the UK’s international education sphere, including promoting the economic benefits of drawing more international students, collaborating more effectively with foreign governments, and analysing policies that have the potential to stifle the sector.