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UK Elections - What are each party plans for International students?

The question of whether or not to include international students into net migration figures have continued to gather momentum, especially during this election period. The public, including stakeholders (interested) in immigration are looking to see each party position on international students.

Issues here include the fate of post-study work, net migration figures amongst many others.

One aspect that all parties agree on is the fact that the UK must continue to welcome international students. However there are slight variations on how each party intends to open the country's borders to international students.

Are international students economic migrants or highly educated international talents? Are they just another foreigner coming into the country to stretch the NHS or they are migrants coming to add value to the country?

The Conservatives

The Tory party have maintained their policy that international students must be part of net migration figures. What this means is that when the government say they are trying to cut net migration down to the tens of thousands, they are also referring to international students.

The tory manifesto reiterates the general consensus that the UK must remain welcoming to International students, but added that visa requirements for international students must be toughened to ensure that we maintain high standards.

Immigration lawyers have questioned what they actually mean by tougher visa requirements and how it will maintain high standards.

The decision to apply tougher visa requirement has however raised some more questions. Dominic Scott, Chief Executive of International Students for example said "I don't think anyone can say why that is either sensible or necessary.

Another prominent stakeholder Nicola Dandridge added that care should be taken to make sure that the "talk of toughening the visa requirements for students" doesn't deter those considering coming to study in the UK.

On the subject of tougher visa rule rules, there was a general consensus in the university community that this would send a negative message globally, especially against a backdrop of an already declining international student immigration.


Labour's approach and interpretation is a little more open and realistic. Highlighting the £25bn international students generate for the UK economy, Jeremy Corbyn's labour manifesto says it will develop and implement fair immigration rules," and emphasises that in trade negotiations, the party's priorities favour "growth, jobs and prosperity" over immigration targets.

This suggests that labour will not be putting a numerical tag or cap on the number of international students. However mentioning that it will be a fair immigration rule suggests that the border gates will not be 180 degrees open on both sides to international immigration. The border, according to labour will be open as the circumstance reasonably allows.

The labour manifesto also added that international students were not permanent residents and not going to be included in immigration numbers. They however vowed to crackdown on fake colleges.

Liberal Democrats

The Liberal Democrats were also of the opinion that international students should be removed from net migration figures.

They also hinted that they will be bringing back post study work visas.

The Liberal Democrats' manifesto says they will "ensure the UK is an attractive destination for overseas students".

What does international students actually bring to the economy?

The UK's tertiary education system is heavily reliant on the higher tuition fees paid by international students to fund its research.

The percentage of international students on a postgraduate course in the UK significantly surpasses that of home students who in most cases may be relying on funding from the government. International students in most cases always have to pay in full before they can be granted a visa to come to the UK to study.

International students are not allowed access to public funds. Thus there is no direct link that they drain public coffers. In most cases, they don't have UK references so they have to pay up to 6 months house rent in full.

With regards to draining the NHS as well, international students pay up to £200 per year as contributions to the NHS whether or not they use it; and irrespective of the frequency of use.

International students can only work for 20 hours a week. This means that they will still be strongly dependent on their families living abroad to support them financially. This means that monies from outside the country and internal economic activities will continue to pour into the UK's financial system - to finance international students living in the UK.

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