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Visa Change Could Damage UK's £40bn Student Market: MPs

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TEHRAN, March 17 (ICANA) – The government's proposals to curb the number of overseas students coming to Britain could 'cripple' the country's thriving education sector, an all-party committee of MPs warned Thursday.
Thursday, March 17, 2011 11:44:42 PM
Visa Change Could Damage UK's £40bn Student Market: MPs

The Home Affairs Select Committee said changes to the immigration system could have serious, unintended, consequences that could damage Britain's place in the international student market, valued at up to £40bn a year.

'Generating policy based on flawed evidence could cripple the UK education sector. In the case of international students this could mean a significant revenue and reputational loss to the UK,' said the committee's chairman, Keith Vaz.

The government's move to cut the annual flow of 300,000 students into Britain stems from its pledge to reduce net annual migration from outside Europe to below 100,000 from the 2009 level of 184,000.

The Home Office has argued that since non-EU students account for 139,000 of the 184,000 total, it is essential to reduce the number coming to study in Britain.

But the committee said that the figures derived from the International Passenger Survey are 'not fit for purpose' and inflate the number of students staying in the UK.

'Although the UN requires students to be included in the migration figures, we are not persuaded that students are in fact migrants,' their report concluded. adding that only those who seek to live permanently in Britain, or who stay an excessive time, should be regarded as migrants.

Instead, it recommended that the government should recognise that students, through tuition fees and other spending, benefit Britain economically, and contribute to enhancing the UK's place in the world.

'We strongly urge the government to examine the data [used] to extrapolate migration figures … we are convinced that it ought to be a priority for the near future,' the MPs said.

In response, Immigration Minister Damian Green said the government recognised the important contribution international students made to the UK economy, but that the old student visa regime neither controlled immigration nor protected legitimate students from being exploited by poor-quality colleges.

'We want to refocus the student visa system as a temporary route and one that is not open to abuse,' Green said.

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