Govt “gaming” net migration figures
The Government should switch to a more rational method of measuring student migration flows and only count students who stay on in the UK permanently in net migration figures, according to a new report published by the think tank IPPR.
IPPR’s report argues that the current method of measuring student migration flows gives the Government a perverse incentive to cut international student numbers in the short term, rather than focusing on what it states is its real aim: reducing long-term net migration. Only around 15% of students stay permanently and contribute to long-term net migration.
IPPR’s analysis suggests that the current method of measuring student migration flows provides the Government with an opportunity to “game” its own 2015 net migration target by reducing the number of genuine international students coming to the UK in 2012-14. Although this would have little impact on real long-term net migration – because most students do not stay long-term – it would have a significant short-term impact on the target.
The report shows that planned Government reductions in student migration would cost the UK £2-3bn a year in economic contributions from the loss of 50,000 students per year while having only a small impact on long-term net migration.
The report recommends that the Government switch to a more rational method of measuring student flows, which would give a true picture of the trade-offs between controlling long-term net migration and the benefits of international students to the economy and the education sector.