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UK could lose £7 billion in the international student market, warns Jo Johnson


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The UK could lose £7 billion in education targets if it continues to squeeze out international students, former Universities Minister Jo Johnson has warned. 

Image credit: Arno Mikkor (EU2017EE) via Flickr

Johnson announced a cross-party amendment to the government's Immigration Bill which would allow international students to work in the UK for at least two years after graduation.

The Immigration Bill, if passed, would bring EEA citizens under British rather than EU law after Brexit.

The amendment to the Bill was tabled on 26 April by Mr Johnson and Paul Blomfield, the Labour Party's Shadow Brexit Secretary and All-Party International Students Group Co-Chair.

In an announcement, the MPs said that their amendment, which has strong support in Parliament, including from nine select committee chairs, would help reverse the sharp decline in the UK’s share of international students and increase chances of next generation of world leaders studying in the UK.

The UK previously allowed international students to remain in the UK for two years after graduation on a post-study work visa. This was scrapped in 2012 amidst claims by then-Home Secretary Theresa May that it "failed to control immigration and failed to protect legitimate students from poor quality colleges."

Mr Johnson, who resigned as Universities Minister in 2018 over Brexit, said: “The difference students make to long-term net migration is small. The difference our new clause will make to our universities, to local economies and to Britain’s global reach will be highly significant. As we re-shape our immigration policy for the future, we must not miss this opportunity.”

Mr Blomfield said: “We need a fresh approach to post-study work, which has been severely restricted since 2012 on the back of shoddy and flawed evidence.”

He added: “Students value post-study work highly and will invest their time, money and human capital elsewhere if it is not available, which is why our competitors have put in place sensible post-study work regimes. Employers too welcome the contribution of these talented graduates.”

Besides extending the post-graduation work period, the amendment would also stop the government from capping international student numbers to meet the net migration target without Parliamentary approval.

Whilst the narrow scope of the Bill only allows amendments relating to EEA and Swiss nationals to be made, the proposed future immigration system will not distinguish between EEA and non-EEA migration, allowing all non-UK students to benefit from the post-study work period.

Yinbo Yu, International Students’ Officer at the National Union of Students, said:

“Whilst we welcome this proposal to extend the availability of post study work visas, we need to consider how we can tackle and end the current hostile environment for migrants and continue to lobby to remove international students from net migration targets.”

“International students bring a wealth of experience to our environment: from the recent HEPI report we now know the international graduates not only provide skills in areas of the economy where there are real shortages but also contribute a £3.2 billion bonus to the UK economy through tax and national insurance so it’s right and fair to extend this provision.”

Image credit: Arno Mikkor (EU2017EE) via Flickr

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