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Doodle Nandi
05 Sep 2017 224 2 mins Share

News: Ninety-seven per cent of international students in the UK leave in time, a new study

The border exit check data strongly affirms that 97% of international students in the UK on long-term study visas leave the country in-time - a debate that raises questions for the government

05 Sep 2017 224 2 mins Share
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According to earlier official estimates by the International Passenger Survey (IPS), nearly 132,000 foreign students were granted UK study visas by Dec’16, out of which some 63,000 students left the country and 69,000 stayed back.

But a new study by the border exit checks says that nearly 97% of international students studying in the UK leave in time, refuting the earlier estimates and investigating more into the stats.

The current data has led Office for National Statistics (ONS) affirm that nearly 97% of international students leave the UK in time, after successfully completing their study programmes in the country, except the remaining 3%.

Hence, the number of students overstaying their visas in the UK might have been misrepresented, says official sources.

To reinforce the data in hand, ONS in collaboration with ESRC Centre for Population Change at the University of Southampton and Universities UK conducted an online survey to gather information from foreign students who are in the final year of their studies in the UK.

The survey was conducted over 130 countries and the results were as follows:

  • 33% of respondents (students) said that they have plans to leave the UK as early as possible, and a further 36% of the respondents said that they would leave the UK within a year.
  • Further 15% of the respondents said that they would like to stay in the UK little longer than a year, and 16% would like to seek for permanent residency in the country.
  • One in five international students has plans to look for a job in the UK post their studies.
  • 15% of respondents plan to continue their studies in the UK, while 11% plan to migrate to some other country for their higher studies.
  • One in five respondents plans to look for jobs outside the UK after finishing their current course.

Alistair Jarvis, Universities UK Chief Executive, said: “The number of students overstaying their visas is a tiny fraction of previous (incorrect) claims.”

Russell Group Acting Director Dr Tim Bradshaw said: “This exit check data confirms that in addition to helping create a diverse learning environment and making a big economic impact, an overwhelming majority of international students comply fully with the terms of their visas.”

Referring to the new border exit data, Home Secretary Ms. Amber Rudd said: “The analysis of exit checks data published today shows that the overwhelming majority of students whose visa expired in 2016/17 were recorded as having left in-time.”

As per the office for National Statistics:

The recent cohorts of non-EU students comply with their visas in terms of departing or staying legally via extensions of leave. This indicates two things:

  1. That many people do not simply immigrate for study and leave afterwards; their lives are more complex – some people arrive on a work visa and legitimately change to a study visa and vice versa;
  2. There is no evidence of a major issue of non-EU students overstaying their entitlement to stay.

We know that the UK is one of the most chosen destinations by foreign students, and its net migration figures have received considerable attention over the past few years. The debate is now if the government records have included the earlier official estimates of the number of foreign students staying back in the UK, thus misleading and implementing restrictive policies. Sources say that this approach might hurt UK's service exports.

The above survey has raised questions for the government to reinstate the post-study visa and treat international students as temporary migrants. 

References: THE, ICEF Monitor and ONS. 

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