New polling, commissioned from Public First by Universities UK, has revealed that the UK public doesn’t see reducing legal migration as a priority compared to other pressing issues, and are not in favour of cutting the number of international students.
When asked, the vast majority of respondents (64%) believed the UK should host the same or more international students and only 9% of overall respondents thought that students and researchers should discouraged from coming to the UK.
The public also strongly supported the contribution international students make to the UK. The majority (62%) recognised that international students gave more to the economy than they took out, and 43% thought that British diplomacy benefits from hosting international students who leave with positive impressions of the UK after studying here, with only 11% disagreeing.
Following speculation that the government may look to restrict the ability for international students, and their dependents, to come to the UK, the polling also found:
- Only 32% of the public believed that international students should be classed as immigrants in official figures.
- Only 18% support giving preferential treatment to international students applying to ‘elite’ universities based on university rankings. 67% felt that all those who meet the visa requirements should come to the UK irrespective of the university they are applying to.
- 48% think that international students should be able to stay in the UK somewhere between 1-5 years with only 13% saying they should leave immediately.
Contrary to reported potential changes to immigration policy, the public do not place legal migration as a high priority challenge for the government, and were far more concerned with issues such as the cost of living, NHS pressures and ambulance wait times.
This new polling confirms that public perceptions of immigration, and of international students in particular, are not what the government may believe.
“The public understands the enormous contribution that international students make to our economy, institutions and research outputs, as well as enormously benefiting the UK’s international reputation. Our international institutions are cherished by the public, and we would hope that government policy follows suit
Vivienne Stern MBE
Chief Executive of UUK