Skip to Navigation

Government ministers preparing to remove foreign students from the official migration statistics

Date of Publication: 
2 January 2018

Home Office believes it is inevitable that Parliament will get a vote on the matter

Government ministers preparing to remove foreign students from the official migration statistics

02 January 2018

News media reported yesterday that Government ministers are preparing to remove foreign students from the official migration statistics.

According to the Daily Mail, Home Secretary Amber Rudd warned Prime Minister Theresa May that growing support for the measure in Parliament means it is now inevitable.

The Independent reported that the Home Office believes that the new Immigration Bill to be brought forward this year will allow MPs to force a vote on the issue.

The Daily Mail quoted a Government source as saying: "It is inevitable that someone will bring forward an amendment on this, and it is very difficult to see how we could defeat it."

Sky News reported today, however, that a spokesman for the Prime Minister's denied there was any change planned and said May's position was "clear".

Asked if she would change the policy, the spokesman said: "No - the position of the Prime Minister on this is clear. The international definition of an immigrant is someone who is here for more than 12 months."

Both the Independent and the Daily Mail reported that Prime Minister May remains the only member of the cabinet in favour of continuing to count foreign students as immigrants.

The Financial Times reported in November that one Government minister said May is "in a minority of one" in the cabinet in believing that students must be counted in the target, and she has so far been implacable in her resistance to any change in policy.

May had said: "Students are in the net migration figures because it is in the international definition of net migration and we abide by the same definition that is used by other countries around the world."

The Daily Mail reported yesterday that British ambassadors have been among those lobbying May to change her mind on the issue. A Government source said: "If we are going to make a success of Brexit and make a reality of the idea of "Global Britain", then we have to be more open to the world. That is the message the PM is getting from ambassadors."

Sky News reported last month that the recently-elected group of Scottish Conservative MPs held a private meeting with Amber Rudd to impress on her the importance of dropping students from the net migration target.

According to the Financial Times, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has no reliable figure for the net migration of students, but the existing flawed data suggests that annual net migration of all international students is about 76,000.

Alistair Jarvis, chief executive of Universities UK, told the Financial Times: "If the UK wants to remain a top destination for international students and staff, we need a new immigration policy that encourages them to choose the UK,"