The Migration Advisory Committee (“MAC”) issued this week their report on the impact of international students in the UK. As Gherson reported last August, the previous Home Office Secretary Amber Rudd commissioned the MAC to examine the impact of both EU and non-EU students on the labour market and economy of the UK.
The MAC’s report made a number of important findings. Firstly, the MAC endorses the status quo that there should not be a cap on the number of international student visas issued under Tier 4. Secondly, the MAC urges UK universities and the government to work together to increase the number of international students in the UK. Thirdly, the MAC backs the current rules on dependents, and on how many part-time hours of work a Tier 4 student is allowed.
However, most importantly the MAC outlines the “clear economic benefit… widely spread around the UK” that international students provide. The report further finds that “there is no doubt that international students offer positive economic benefit”. The MAC found evidence that international students greatly contribute to public finances and their expenditure helps local economies that would otherwise need to find alternative sources of income.
Perhaps disappointingly to the education sector, the MAC report does not support the mooted idea for exclusion of international students in the International Passenger Survey (IPS) immigration statistics. Although it recognises that there are difficulties with reliably measuring the migration statistics in relation to students, the MAC observes that there is no ground for removing students from the IPS statistics. However, the report clearly differentiates between the IPS migration statistics and the caps that the government imposes itself. Nevertheless, the MAC concludes that “excluding students from the net migration target, if done correctly, would probably make very little difference to the net migration statistics”.
More disappointingly, the MAC rejected calls for a more radical overhaul of the post-study options for international students. The report clearly states that the Mac does “not recommend a separate post-study work visa“. This goes against the recent proposal by Universities UK for a new separate route under the Immigration rules for international UK graduates. The MAC argues that “would likely increase demand from international students but without ensuring that graduating students are in appropriately skilled work”. The MAC’s report advises that, instead of securing highly skilled migration, such a route may become a gateway for low-skilled migration, lower the quality of educational services provided, and allow educational institutions to “market themselves based on post-study work opportunities”.
Nevertheless, the MAC report supports the idea of longer automatic post-study leave for Tier 4 students, widening of the window for applying for a switch from Tier 4 to Tier 2, and entitlement to switch to Tier 2 from overseas on the same conditions as from within the UK.
The report finally notes that leaving the EU will likely make it harder for EEA nationals to come to the UK and may also deter a number of them from coming. However, the report further notes that this should hinder the UK educational sector’s thriving in the future (when compared with its competitors). Therefore, the MAC does not see strong arguments for allowing EEA nationals more rights than international students following Brexit. As the MAC prepares to issue a report on the economic impact of EU migrants and recommendations for post-Brexit immigration policy next week, there may be further recommendations and observations on this topic.
The full report can be found here.
Gherson can provide professional guidance in regards Tier 4 visas and EEA migration rights. Should you wish to discuss the options available to you, please do not hesitate to contact us.
The information in this blog is for general information purposes only and does not purport to be comprehensive or to provide legal advice. Whilst every effort is made to ensure the information and law is current as of the date of publication it should be stressed that, due to the passage of time, this does not necessarily reflect the present legal position. Gherson accepts no responsibility for loss which may arise from accessing or reliance on information contained in this blog. For formal advice on the current law please don’t hesitate to contact Gherson. Legal advice is only provided pursuant to a written agreement, identified as such, and signed by the client and by or on behalf of Gherson.