In a letter to the prime minister, nearly 70 university heads are warning that changes to student visas would drive bright applicants away. They urge the government to take foreign students, who bring in £8bn a year, out of net immigration counts. In the letter, senior education figures called for the prime minister to class foreign students as temporary rather than permanent migrants. In their letter, the signatories expressed concern that Britain's higher education industry could be harmed by changes to immigration policy. Britain attracts around one in 10 students who study outside their home country, generating around £8bn a year in tuition fees, they said. This, they added, could increase to £17bn by 2025.
But ministers said the policy did not stop genuine students coming to the UK. Immigration Minister Damian Green said the government was "determined to prevent the abuse of student visas as part of our plans to get net migration down to the tens of thousands. Students coming to the UK for over a year are not visitors", he said. "Numbers affect communities, public services and infrastructure." But Mr Green pointed out that the Independent Office for National Statistics was responsible for producing net migration figures, which were based on an internationally agreed definition of a migrant - someone entering the country for more than a year. "Public confidence in statistics will not be enhanced by revising the way the net migration numbers are presented by removing students", he said.
Or if I may put it another way. University heads should realise that the economic impact of illegal migration is far greater than the paltry loss of revenue they might suffer as a result of these measures.