58% oppose reduction in student migration numbers

The support for student immigration contrasts with concern over a reduction in international applications

A majority of Britons are against cuts in the number of international students coming to study in the UK, a recent poll of 4,000 people commissioned by ComRes has found.

The poll shows that 46% of those surveyed favoured student immigration remaining at its current level—around 124,000 per year—with a further 12% supporting an increase in numbers. This however represents a fall from last year when 18% said they would be in favour of an increase.

Furthermore, when those polled were presented with information about the economic impact of international students, they became more supportive of numbers remaining the same or increase: the proportion wanting an increase doubled to 24%.

It recently emerged that student immigration figures dropped by 23% in the past year.

The President of Universities UK, Dame Julia Goodfellow said the results showed the public did not view students as immigrants, but as “valuable, temporary visitors”.

Goodfellow also said that “The most recent figures on international students in the UK showed a worrying decline in the number of new international enrolments over recent years. At the same time, competitor countries such as the USA and Australia have seen increases. Both countries open their arms to international students and classify them as being non-permanent or temporary residents in their immigration systems.

“The UK could be doing much better than this. The UK has the potential to be one of the world’s fastest growing destinations for international students, building on its current status as the second most popular destination for international students [after the US].

“If the UK wants to remain a top destination for international students, we need a new immigration policy that encourages them to choose the UK. As the UK prepares to exit the EU, it is more important than ever that we project a welcoming message to talented people from across the world.”

However, Oxford’s Head of Brexit Strategy, Alastair Buchan confirmed in March that there had been a 10% increase in European applications since the Brexit vote. This contrasted with a 14% fall in European applications to Cambridge University.

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Buchan also said that Oxford will press the government to exclude students from migrant numbers, ensure freedom of movements for academics, and find “mechanisms” to access collaborative EU funding.

Oxford University’s Press Office and Oxford Migrant Solidarity have both been contacted for comment