The impact is positive in every local authority area and every constituency. Time government policy took that into accountby Nick Hillman / January 16, 2018 / Leave a comment
Six years ago, as the Coalition’s Special Adviser on Universities and Science, I was in the midst of fraught discussions with the Home Office about international students. The Immigration Minister at the time, Damian Green, was about to make a speech that seemed to exaggerate the cost of hosting international students in the UK.
The Home Office suspected international students were clogging up our roads, filling up our hospitals and houses and even taking places at our schools for their children. We argued, in contrast, that they seemed to contribute far more to the UK—for example, via their spending on tuition fees and living expenses—than they cost. Typically, international students are fairly young, arrive without lots of expensive dependants and live in shared occupancy accommodation, which is often purpose-built for the sole use of students.
But neither the Home Office nor us had hard numbers to back up our arguments. Damian Green, to his credit, ended up delivering a speech that avoided blaming international students and instead called for a new debate. He argued: “there is scope for further examination of whether and to what extent foreign student tuition fees boost the UK economy and crucially how UK residents ultimately benefit from that.”
Since then, relations between UK universities and the Home Office have been in the deep freeze. For example, successive immigration ministers, under pressure from Theresa May as Home Secretary and then Prime Minister, have refused to remove international students from the government’s target to reduce net inward migration to below 100,000. There have also been various rule changes that have imposed new obstacles in the path of those contemplating studying in the UK. But one thing has not happened: the debate has not become more evidence-based in the way that, back in 2012, Damian Green said it should. In other words, there has been lots of heat but not much light.
At the Higher Education Policy Institute, we became so bored waiting for this to change that, in the middle of 2017, we joined with Kaplan International Pathways for a project with three parts. We asked, first, for an updated calculation on the gross benefits to the UK of hosting over 400,000 international students. We also requested a figure for the costs associated with those students, to enable…