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House of Commons Hansard
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15 May 2013
Volume 563
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8. What discussions he has had with his ministerial colleagues and others on increasing the accessibility of educational institutions in Wales to students from overseas. [153892]

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10. What discussions he has had with his ministerial colleagues and others on increasing the accessibility of educational institutions in Wales to students from overseas. [153894]

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A thriving higher education sector is vital to our economy and I recognise the significant contribution that overseas students make to the sector. The reforms we have introduced have tackled abuse of the student migration system while protecting universities, to ensure that they can continue to attract the best and the brightest.

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I am sure that the Minister will want to join me in congratulating Swansea university, whose pro-vice chancellor I met last night, on the start of its new, second campus, which will house 5,000 students. Will my hon. Friend make every effort to publicise the fact that Welsh universities are open for business and open to applications from overseas students?

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My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Welsh higher education institutions attract a greater proportion of overseas students than similar institutions in England, Northern Ireland or Scotland; they are at the forefront of attracting overseas students. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State visited the new campus at Swansea university recently; it illustrates the strong offer that the university now has.

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Notwithstanding the Government’s necessary direction of travel on immigration policy as set out in the Queen’s Speech, may I ask my hon. Friend to endorse the work of Aberystwyth university, which plans to treble the number of its overseas students by 2017? That will be essential for the local economy, and for building links with emerging economies throughout the world.

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Aberystwyth is another university with an extremely strong track record of attracting overseas students. In fact, in an international survey of students, it was voted the best overseas university for student satisfaction and the best place to live. It is front and centre of our efforts to attract more overseas students.

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What discussions has the Minister had with the Home Office about the impact on higher education institutions in Wales of 42,000 fewer students coming to the UK?

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There is a constant close dialogue between us, the Home Office and the Minister for Universities and Science about how we can attract more overseas students to the UK. I do not know what figures the hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent (Nick Smith) has seen, but if he looks at the figures for overseas students coming to Wales, he will see that there has been a 73% increase in the past five years, and those numbers are continuing to go up. [Interruption.]

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Order. There is a large number of extremely noisy private conversations taking place, including among those on the Opposition Benches, who I am sure will now wish to hear Jessica Morden.