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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

Jo Attwooll

Jo Attwooll

Programme Manager
Universities UK

Davina Foord

Davina Foord

Policy Researcher
Universities UK


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