An observed difference was seen in UK Prime Minister Theresa May’s stance on migration of foreign students. She remarked that international students do not have a long-term impact on migration numbers. Earlier, May was seen keeping the migrant issue at an arm’s length, paralleling other right wing leaders and detesters of open border migration policy.
While serving as the Home Secretary, May had taken a hard-line on overseas students entering into the UK. She resented the arrival of young migrants and expressed that they had enrolled in low-grade institutions and came with the real intention of finding employment.
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However, on her recent visit to Beijing, May informed reporters that rogue colleges who enlisted students for phoney courses had been regulated and shut down. She added that international students no longer had a significant imprint on the rising toll of migration.
When asked about her previous stance on Student migration, she retorted, saying, “It was important to look at what was happening with students in the UK when I was home secretary”.
“There was a lot of abuse taking place in colleges – something like 900 colleges can no longer bring in overseas students because all too often they were being brought in to work, rather than for education. Once you see that abuse out of the system, students coming in for the period of their education and then leaving actually wash through the numbers – they don’t have a long-term impact on the numbers.”
En route to China's University City, Wuhan, she spoke about the campus dynamics that were prevalent at the time, “There was a lot of abuse taking place in colleges – something like 900 colleges can no longer bring in overseas students because all too often they were being brought in to work, rather than for education", she said.
She further added, "Once you see that abuse out of the system, students coming in for the period of their education and then leaving actually wash through the numbers – they don’t have a long-term impact on the numbers", she said.
The Office for National Statistics carried out a study to examine the long term issues associated with students over-staying there visas and found no significant correlation. Cabinet ministers feel that the forthcoming immigration bill could be detrimental to the government, if the student numbers are not included in the demographics.
However, May has reasserted that students should not be excluded from the official migration statistics, a perspective contrary to the views held by many in her cabinet.
The current home secretary, Amber Rudd, holds that students should be excluded from the count, a view supported by the Scottish Conservative leader, Ruth Davidson, who described the decision to continue to include students in the numbers as “distortive, counterproductive and sends out the entirely wrong signals”.
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International trade secretary of the UK, Liam Fox, admitted last year that was an “ongoing argument” around the cabinet table and suggested he had sympathy with the idea of erasing students from the figures. “I’ve made my own views on that clear in private to the home secretary,” he said. “I think there is a value for those who come and study in the United Kingdom.”
May had said that it was imperative for students to be included in the numbers, “The reason students have been in the numbers is because it’s an international definition of a migrant,” she said.
This article originally appeared in The Guardian.