Release of the Government’s Immigration White Paper

19 December 2018

Responding to the Government’s Immigration White Paper, Russell Group Head of Policy Jessica Cole said:

“We are pleased to hear the Home Secretary underlining the many benefits of immigration to the UK and the need for a system which preserves our status as an outward-facing nation. The fact that the White Paper does not include the explicit ambition to bring net migration down to tens of thousands sends a more welcoming message to potential migrants, as well as to those who already contribute to our society.

 “It is sensible for the Government to focus on attracting the skills our economy needs and to remove the cap on skilled migrants. It remains to be seen, however, if these proposals will enable the UK to continue competing for top European talent, particularly when freedom of movement will remain in place on the Continent. We hope the costs faced by incoming migrants, such as the recently doubled health surcharge, will not be off-putting, and that the visa application process will be streamlined, as promised in today’s announcement. We are encouraged that the MAC’s recommendation for a £30,000 salary threshold has not been set in stone. Salary is not always a proxy for skill-level: in universities, for example, many highly-trained foreign technicians are recruited on a lower wage.

 “Efforts have been made in today’s proposals to boost the UK’s appeal to international students. The decision to allow all graduates to remain here for up to 6 months after completing their studies is a step in the right direction. Lengthening the period further would help the UK keep up with our international competitors, such as Canada and Australia.

 “We remain seriously concerned that overall the Government’s proposals will place an unrealistic and unsustainable burden on sponsors, including businesses, universities, the NHS, schools and charities. At the moment, EU migrants do not require a UK sponsor, whereas those coming from other parts of the world do. Under today’s plans the UK will move to a system where every single migrant entering as a student or under the skilled route, from any country, will need to be sponsored, adding to the already excessive cost and red tape faced by these organisations. The White Paper gives some reassurances that Government will look to reduce the sponsorship burden, but with very little clarity on how this could be achieved. It is vital this issue is resolved as part of the consultation.”


  • There are 26,500 EU nationals working at Russell Group universities (RGUs) and 18,000 migrants from other parts of the world. EU staff represent 15% of the overall workforce at RGUs, 23% of academics and 28% of staff on research-only contracts.
  • There are 215,000 international students (non-UK EU and non-EU nationals) studying at Russell Group universities.
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