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Students are not an immigration problem

25 Aug 2017

Responding to Home Office announcements on student immigration CaSE says Government must lead the way on use of evidence

Responding to the publication of the Office for National Statistics (ONS) report on student migration which shows that “there is no evidence of a major issue of non-EU students overstaying their entitlement to stay”, and the appointment of Professor John Aston as the Home Office Chief Scientific Advisor, CaSE Director, Dr Sarah Main said:

“It is a shock to see just how far out Government’s assumptions have been about students staying in the UK. Now that it has more reliable data, Government must change its messages and its policies to reflect it – students are not an immigration problem.”

​”​The Government has a responsibility to lead the way on transparency, use of evidence, and nuance in relation to immigration in policy development and public announcements. It is therefore good news that the government has today published the findings from the hard work the ONS has conducted to improve the quality of the data on movement of international students. It is also great to see the appointment of a new Chief Scientific Advisor to the Home Office with expertise in statistics, Professor John Aston.​”​

​”​A migration system that supports mobility, including for students, along with a genuinely welcoming environment are essential if the UK is to be a great place to do science and engineering after Brexit.​”​

The Home Secretary has also commissioned the Migration Advisory Committee ​to undertake a study of the impact of international students in the UK. CaSE will be responding to the call for evidence from the MAC once it is published, along with their existing call on EEA-workers in the UK labour market.


  • It was previously reported that around 93,000 were overstaying their visa, new data suggests it is a small minority, less than 5,000, whereas 97.4% left the country in time.
  • 78% of the public wanting to see international student numbers increase or stay the same and only a fifth of the public think of students as immigrants (British Future, What next after Brexit? (2016))
  • 53% say that if the UK adopted a policy to help boost growth by increasing the number of international students coming to their country, they would support this policy, and 
  • 70% say it is better if international students use their skills here and work in the UK after graduation in order to contribute to the economy rather than returning immediately to their home country, and 
  • A minority consider international students (24%) or EU students (23%) coming to study at a UK university as immigrants (Universities UK poll conducted by ComRes, October 2016) 
  • CaSE’s Evidence report outlines the importance of evidence based policy making and makes 14 recommendations for action including on publication, transparency and CSAs.