Lords Science and Technology Committee Report on international STEM students

11 April 2014

Commenting on a report into international science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) students by the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee, Dr Wendy Piatt, Director-General of the Russell Group, said:

“To maintain our place as a global leader in higher education, the UK must continue to attract the very best talent from around the world, showing that its doors are open to genuine international students.

“The welcome that students and potential students receive is critical to our ability to grow this important part of the economy. A smooth visa application process is a crucial part of this, and so we support the Committee’s recommendations to streamline this process and bring the costs in line with competitors like Canada, where student visas cost around a quarter of a UK visa.1

“We agree that the Government should distinguish between students and other migrants in its net migration targets. Whilst the Prime Minister and Home Secretary have both stated that there is no cap on legitimate international students, the fact that they are still included in the net migration target leads to the perception in some quarters that the UK is unwelcoming.

“Therefore, it is encouraging that with this report, produced by a cross-party committee, and the positive sentiments expressed by the Shadow Home Secretary on this yesterday, there is growing support for this change amongst politicians of all parties.

“The number of overseas students at Russell Group universities has increased overall, though there have been falls in the number of students coming from India and Nigeria following changes to the post-study visa routes. Immigration rules do allow overseas students with a graduate job to remain in the UK after their studies but the Government needs to do more to communicate this to employers and students alike.

“There is strong international demand for the world-class education in medicine and dentistry provided by Russell Group universities, but there are currently restrictions on the number of overseas students we are allowed to admit to these programmes. We would like to see more flexibility in the number of doctors and dentists our universities can train. This is a major educational export opportunity from which the UK would benefit substantially.”

Notes to Editors

  1. The cost of a Tier 4 (student) visa in the UK is £310. In Canada, the equivalent visa costs just £82 (CAD$150), and in Ireland just £83 (€100). Exchange rates on 10th April 2014.
  2. The University of Sheffield has worked with the Home Office to produce videos aimed at prospective students in China and India to debunk the myths around the UK’s immigration system which have arisen recently. You can see these here: http://www.weareinternational.org.uk/

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