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New poll – cutting international student numbers will not address public immigration concerns

International university students are not viewed as immigrants by the majority of the British public and the majority don't want to see numbers reduced, according to a new poll published today.

The poll, conducted by ComRes for Universities UK, revealed that only a quarter (24%) of British adults think of international students as immigrants. Of those that expressed a view, 75% say they would like to see the same number, or more, international students in the UK, a figure which jumped to 87% once information on the economic benefits of international students was provided.

The poll also revealed that the overwhelming majority of the British public (91%) think that international students should be able to stay and work in the UK for a period of time after they have completed their study.

The poll, based on the views of over 2,000 British adults, found that:

  • Of those that expressed a view, 75% say they would like to see the same number, or more, international students in the UK

  • Of those who expressed a view, 71% say they would support a policy to help boost growth by increasing overseas students, with only 7% saying they would strongly oppose such a policy. 25% of British adults did not express an opinion on this issue

  • 91% think that international students should be able to stay and work in the UK for a period of time after they have completed their study

  • Just 25% of leave and 23% of remain voters said that they think of international students as immigrants

  • Of those that expressed a view, 81% agree that international students have a positive impact on local economies and towns in which they study

  • Around one in five British adults (19-23%) did not express an opinion on each of these issues

Research shows that overseas students at British universities support over 170,000 jobs in local communities across the UK. International students are also a major UK export, currently worth over £10.7 billion to the UK economy.

Nicola Dandridge, Chief Executive of Universities UK, said: "These findings are a clear indication that any new policies aimed at lowering net migration figures by reducing the number of overseas students will not address public concerns over immigration. International students come to the UK, are welcomed by British people, study for a period, and then the overwhelming majority go home after their studies.

"It is very clear that a majority of the public recognises that international students are valuable, temporary visitors that make an important economic and cultural contribution to the UK.

"While countries such as Australia, the USA and Canada have policies to grow the numbers of international students, the UK Government has said that it is considering policies to reduce numbers here.

"The negative economic impact of a reduction in international student numbers would be felt by local communities across the UK. International students support regional economies, create jobs, supply high level graduate skills, and ensure the sustainability of many courses at a regional level. Many international students return home having forged strong links in this country that provide long-term, 'soft power' and trade benefits for the UK."

Notes

  1. For media interviews, please email pressoffice@universitiesuk.ac.uk or telephone 0207 419 5407. Or contact Emma Cowlard by email or telephone 0207 419 5580.

  2. ComRes interviewed 2,018 British adults aged 18+ online between the 28th and 29th September 2016. Data are weighted by age, gender, socio-economic grade and region to be representative of all GB adults aged 18+. Full data tables are available on the ComRes website 

Key Contacts

Gareth Morgan

Gareth Morgan

Media Relations Manager
Universities UK

Clara Plackett

Clara Plackett

Press and Social Media Officer
Universities UK

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