Home > Policy and analysis > Reports > International students and the UK immigration debate

International students and the UK immigration debate

25 August 2014

Report cover There is strong public support for international student migration, and it is clear that people understand the economic and educational benefits brought to Britain by international students.

Drawing on a nationally representative poll by ICM of 2,111 people, and incorporating evidence from six deliberative workshops held in York, Bristol and Nottingham, this report shows that students are among the most popular categories of migrants with the public.

Data gathered in the report reveals:

  • 59% of the public believe the government should not reduce international student numbers.
  • 66% of Conservative voters are opposed to reducing student numbers.
  • 60% of people think that international students benefit their local economy. 
  • 61% agree that Britain’s universities would have less funding to invest without fee income from international students.
  • 75% think that international students should be allowed to remain in Britain after graduation, for at least a period of time. 
  • Only 22% think that international students should count as migrants.

Universities UK recommends that government:

  • Remove of international students from any net migration target
  • Launch an international student growth strategy, backed by investment, to promote British universities overseas, build new international partnerships and attract more international students to Britain
  • Make a renewed effort – through its words, actions and policies – to communicate a consistent message that Britain welcomes international students
  • Enhance opportunities for qualified international graduates to stay in the UK to work and contribute to the economy

The team

Stephanie Harris

Policy Manager
Universities UK


UUK response to announcement of a new post-study work visa

11 September 2019
Responding to the announcement of a new post-study work visa allowing international students to work in the UK for two years after graduation.

International students paying through the nose for woefully inadequate document-checking service

29 July 2019
Concern is rising at UK universities as Sopra Steria – the company contracted to check documents and enrol biometric information as part of visa applications – is unable to meet demand, with students in some parts waiting 30 days to get an appointment


Further developments on student migration data

24 August 2017
As the Home Office and Office for National Statistics release new migration data, UUK's Eleanor Jubb analyses the implications for the higher education sector.

Government’s use of student migration data ‘potentially misleading’

27 July 2017
UUK's Eleanor Jubb considers the report by the Office for Statistics Regulation (OSR) which says that the UK government's use of student migration data is 'potentially misleading'