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Net Migration Target: International Students

Volume 631: debated on Monday 20 November 2017

23. Whether she plans to exclude international students from the Government's net migration target. (901927)

I can be very clear: there is absolutely no limit on the number of international students who can come to the UK, and nor is there any plan to impose one. What we have seen this summer is that students are now compliant, and that means their effect on the net migration figures is marginal.

We are now coming to the end of a very successful two-year pilot allowing Chinese nationals a two-year, multiple-entry visa for the price of a six-month single-entry visa. It looks as though that will be made permanent in the new year. Will the Secretary of State commit to introducing the same scheme for Indian nationals, our best allies in trade post-Brexit?

I was in India just a couple of weeks ago, and I had some conversations about the pilots we are running in China. The hon. Gentleman is a little premature, because the pilot with China is still running. It is based on a different situation from the situation with us and India, but we will look at that pilot, and I will feed back after it has ended and we have a chance to review it.

Recent polling by ComRes shows that much of the British public do not consider international students to be immigrants, and they want to see them work for a period here to contribute to the economy. Will the Minister commit to increasing the UK’s post-study work opportunities so that we can continue to attract the brightest and the best students to the UK after Brexit?

The hon. Lady makes a good point. These things are always kept under review, but students leaving university as graduates will, with a graduate job, normally be able to qualify under the tier 2 visa system anyway, and I would encourage them to do that.

But should the Minister not take the student figures out of the immigration figures, because students do not come here as asylum seekers? They actually come here and contribute to local economies, so there is a contradiction in the Government’s position.

An awful lot of migrants who come here do not come as asylum seekers, and that is quite a wide issue. With regard to students, the net migration figures are assessed and published by the Office for National Statistics, which is entirely independent of Government, and those figures are based on the UN definition of a migrant, which is somebody who is in the country for 12 months or more.

15. Stirling University has a deserved global reputation for welcoming international students. When will Scotland’s universities have the advantages of post-study work visas? (901919)

As I said a few moments ago, students who leave university with a graduate-type job would be able to apply under the tier 2 visa system anyway. We are running a pilot at the moment, and I will be looking at the outcome very soon.

Does the Minister realise how pleased the directors of Jaguar Land Rover will be with the answer he has just given? They sponsor students at Birmingham University and other universities in Birmingham, so they will be very relieved to know that those students can get graduate visas.

My hon. Friend has just highlighted what many of us are very clear about, which is that students play a hugely important part in our national economy. They are huge contributors and have a great contribution to make when they leave university, when that is done in the appropriate format. We would encourage more people to come and study in this country at the excellent institutions we have right across the country.

The shadow Home Secretary was seeking to come in. I do beg the right hon. Lady’s pardon—we must hear from her. We will hold the hon. Member for Edinburgh West (Christine Jardine) in suspense, but not for long.

The Minister will be aware that the Financial Times reported on 8 November that an ally of the Home Secretary is in favour of removing international students from the Government’s migration targets. Some people suspect that the unnamed ally may, in fact, be the Home Secretary herself. Whether or not that is the case, the Minister has conceded that international students make an enormous contribution not just to academia but to the economies of our university towns. Will the Government listen to voices on both sides of the House and remove international students from the migration target?

Obviously, we are all allies, so it is quite easy for me to answer the right hon. Lady’s question. I direct her to have a look at the answer I gave a few moments ago. The key thing with students is that, thanks to the work that this Government have done since 2010 in shutting down about 920 bogus colleges, students are now complying, so the effect on migration is marginal, at best.