MigrationWatch distorts statistics on immigration via students


1:44 pm - January 29th 2011

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contribution by Sarah Mulley

A MigrationWatch report published earlier this week (widely reported in the right-wing press) claimed that the Points-Based System (PBS) introduced by the previous government had been ineffective at controlling immigration.

MigrationWatch’s key piece of evidence for this claim is analysis suggesting that immigration for work and study increased rapidly in the PBS’s first year of operation (2008-2009). But this claim doesn’t stand up.

The PBS covers immigration to the UK from outside the EU for the purposes of work or study. Home Office data show clearly that immigration from outside the EU for work declined substantially in 2008-09 (as MigrationWatch acknowledge) – arrivals data show that immigration for work (including dependents) declined by 12 per cent between 2008 and 2009.

So MigrationWatch’s claim immigration increased rapidly as the PBS was introduced rests on their claim that student immigration increased substantially in this period.

In 2009, the first year after the introduction of PBS Tier 4 visas there was a massive jump in student numbers to 468,000.

They also present data purporting to show a rapid increase in student immigration to the UK since 2005.

But MigrationWatch can only make this claim by including in their statistics ‘student visitors’ – those given leave to enter the UK to study for a period of less than 6 months. This group accounted for almost 200,000 of MigrationWatch’s 468,000 students in 2009.

Student visitors are not migrants.

This means that an accurate analysis of student immigration trends should exclude student visitors from 2008 and 2009 data.

Arrivals data actually suggest that student immigration numbers have been more-or-less stable (at around 300,000 arrivals a year) for at least a decade, albeit with a peak of around 370,000 in 2007.

To be fair to MigrationWatch, they aren’t the only ones making these misleading claims about student migration. The Government’s current consultation document on reducing student migration claims that the number of students admitted has increased by 70 per cent between 1999 and 2009. This is only true if student visitors are included – once student visitors are excluded, arrivals data suggest that student admissions in 2009 were about the same as 1999.

So where does this leave MigrationWatch’s claim that the first year of the PBS saw immigration numbers rise? Excluding student visitors, arrivals data suggest that immigration to the UK from outside the EU for work and study was about 22 per cent lower in 2009 than in 2007.

This slightly technical debate about statistics is important because foreign students are now in the firing line as the Government seeks to reduce total net migration to the UK by more than half. That would impose significant costs on the education sector and the wider economy.

It may be politically expedient in the short term to give the impression that immigration is out of control, but in the long term it will further undermine public confidence, and make it even harder to have a productive political or policy debate about migration in the UK.

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Sarah Mulley is Associate Director for Migration, Trade and Development at ippr

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Reader comments


It’s this abuse of statistics that reveal the rather smelly agenda behind MigrationWatch. Students, from other nations are willing to pay for access to our university’s, the implication there being that the UK provides world-class education and generates us a source of revenue – something we should celebrate.
But alas, since these students are foreign, MigrationWatch is instead going to ask that we send them all back were they came from.

2. Just Visiting

Hi Sarah

Have you researched the ‘‘student visitors’’ you mention? Specifically, what percentage stay on after their visa allows? Or go on to claim asylum once they are here.

It’s possible that this percentage is higher than for regular studen visas?

Anecdotally, I have certainly heard this happening at a language school near me.

Why would anyone want to restrict foreign student numbers? They’re a huge source of revenue, effectively counting as exports. I thought we were supposed to be exporting our way out of recession, but restrictions on non-EU student numbers will take hundreds of millions, at least, out of the economy. It will also reduce the UK’s cultural impact, that intangible but so important asset. Sadly, xenophobia seems to be trumping economic and cultural sense. That’s all it can be, pure xenophobia.

Universities depend on income from foreign students to make up for under-funding of home students. Sadly, this income is going to be greatly restricted at the same time that public funding is being withdrawn for almost all university subjects, and when the increase in fees threatens home recruitment. Expect universities to start going bankrupt in the next couple of years, I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s as many as 20. Again, this will come with both an economic and a cultural cost. Sadly, our government are philistines who are economically incompetent, and a generation of the young will suffer for it.

@ 2

for someone who is Just Visitng, you seem to spend quite a lot of time hanging around here.

5. Just Visiting

Car Down

A curious post? What are you suggesting?

6. Chaise Guevara

Just Visiting, I assume that comment by car down was in lieu of actually addressing anything you said.

7. Papa Foxtrot Tango

The Migrationwatch report linked to by Sarah Mulley clearly distinguishes between Students and Student Visitors, and in fact includes two separate graphs, one for each.

It is the IPPR which is guilty of distortion in this instance, not Migrationwatch UK.

The student visa debate is epically baffling. Foreigners want to pay us money and at the same time subsidise our education system. They’re not destitute or refugees (we know this, because we know they can afford to pay inflated overseas student fees) – rather, they’re wealthy and highly skilled.

In other words, it’s an absolute win-win situation with no possible drawbacks.

In an ideal world, anyone with a UK university degree would also get automatic permanent residency, on the grounds of being more highly skilled and having a greater conception of British culture than 75% of the native-born population. As it is, they don’t, but many stay on anyway as highly-skilled sponsored migrants and contribute massively to both the economy and wider society.

To object to any of the above, you’d have to *actually* be mentally ill. Even if you think there’s a need to clamp down on immigration, a far better route would be to say that *only* fluent English speakers with university degrees, or who are studying for university degrees, can come in – irrespective of who they’re related to – rather than telling precisely the people we want and need to piss off.

It is off topic, sure it is, bit where is there a thread where we can discuss Egypt? You’s almost call it censorship.

10. Just Visiting

john b

> To object to any of the above, you’d have to *actually* be mentally ill

A tip john – you won’t win a reputation as a thoughtful, evidence base debater if you resort to such pre-emptive accusations.

11. Just Visiting

Douglas

the lack of Egypt threads on LC is noteworthy.

Why do Sunny and pals have nothing to say on it, I wonder?

Migrationwatch has an odious and nasty agenda and no one who wants to call themselves a journalist should ever quote them as a source. You might expect no better from some of the papers, but the frequency with which they’re quoted by the BBC is utterly disgusting. It’s made worse by the knowledge that Migrationwatch has a history of threatening people with legal action – any organisation which refuses to let itself be challenged like this has lost any credibility.

I like John B’s post. Any one who’s even thinking about getting shirty about his flowery, but very apt, comparison is a self-important arse.

13. Just Visiting

chris

You are John B, aren’t you?

> I like John B’s post. Any one who’s even thinking about getting shirty about his flowery, but very apt, comparison is a self-important arse.

That’s the exact style that John used – along the lines of: if you disagree with me you are a .

14. Just Visiting

doh – need an edit button here…

that post lost its ending: try this:

__ That’s the exact style that John used – along the lines of: if you
__ disagree with me you are a (insert abuse here)

@JV: I can confirm Chris isn’t me.

This is a debating tactic I’ve received stick from before, but I stand by it – I’m willing to engage in rational debate, but only with rational positions.

If I say “it’s better to let people from wherever they are in the world in to contribute to and enjoy the benefits of our society”, and you say “ahh, but if you bring in lots of them they’ll destabilise everything and bring their ropey third-world cultural values and make everything rubbish”, then I disagree with you, but you have a completely cogent point whose value is based on 1) the empirical likelihood of random people from the third world acquiring our cultural values 2) the worth that you put on the well-being of people who aren’t British versus that of people who are. There’s room for a rational debate.

When it comes to whether we should let in people with money and A-levels to become students, I don’t see room for that kind of debate – there actually *isn’t* a rational counterposition, so the only debating ground is to point out that your opponents are demented.

16. Chaise Guevara

@ 8

I have to agree about it being a win-win. I can see that people might be angry about the idea of foreigners getting places at the expense of British kids (it’s basically the education equivalent of the “taking our jobs” thing, isn’t it?), but I would imagine that the extra funding would allow universities to hire more lecturers and allow more students onto courses. There isn’t an absolute number of uni places available in Britain.

17. Nathaniel Mathews

While omitting to mention short term students to scaremonger is a nifty sleight of hand to increase fear of foreigners, the argument that foreign students are a bad thing doesn’t seem to stand up. They bring serious money into the economy which colleges and universities depend on. In doing so they become familiar with our ideas and culture, and contribute their own. Most will go back taking a favourable view of our country. Some will stay on and pass on the skills, knowledge and scholarship . Some will set up businesses, others will work in our NHS.

After all, the sign of having a world class University system (which ain’t perfect) is that foreign students wish to study here.

Not insane maybe, bur certainly either wrong-headed or wicked.

http://frontlinehackney.blogspot.com/2011_01_01_archive.html

@ john b
I should suggest that you can lay out some of the arguments in favour of foreign students coming here to study (not all – there isn’t space) and then say – “there are no valid arguments against” or say “some people claim that it reduces the number of places for British students but it does not because …” It is not necessary to say your opponents are demented if you make it clear there are no rational counter-arguments and to do so sounds aggressive instead of rational

@16 Chaise – I fully agree

@ 17 Nathaniel
Try reading the Migration Watch report to which the OP refers. It is a relatively sober piece of reporting (better than I had expected from them) that tries to adjust for the effect of the economic cycle on work-related immigration and does *not* “omit to mention short term students to scaremonger” – it actually shows numbers including and excluding them for the period since the “student visitor” category was introduced and estimates numbers for earlier periods. It concludes that New Labour’s PBS has not reduced numbers of immigrants, with the decrease in work-based immigrants due to the recession and *that is all*. No scaremongering that I could see (and they don’t say foreign students are a bad thing although they hint that better checks need to be made as some *might* have forged educational certificates in order to get a student visa).
Ms Mulley claims that “This means that an accurate analysis of student immigration trends should exclude student visitors from 2008 and 2009 data.” BUT she is including them for prior years.
She also refers to “MigrationWatch’s claim immigration increased rapidly as the PBS was introduced” despite Migration Watch making no such claim.
It seems to me that the scaremongering is by ippr about “MigrationWatch” rather than by Migration Watch.

20. Just Visiting

John

well, so far as I’ve seen, Sunny has very rarely changed the title of a posting, when it has been proven to be wrong + misleading.

Well Sunny – how about this time?

21. Peter In London, E12

Dai Jones wrote: “Why would anyone want to restrict foreign student numbers? They’re a huge source of revenue, effectively counting as exports.”

How many foreign students are in the UK at any one time? The ONS tells us:

“The number of visas issued for the purposes of study was 355,065 in the year to September 2010, a rise of 16 per cent on 306,930 in the year to September 2009”

Let’s assume there is 1 Million here at any one time. Their economic benefits include:

– health tourism
– overcrowded transport infrastruce
– failing waste, water and sanitation infrastructure
– increased rental costs for all
– increased Housing Benfit costs due to rising rents
– downward pressure on wages in multiple sectors

Some of these students are here for 5 years or more. Let’s assume each student only the 20 hours per week allowed – even though we know many exceed this – then the 1 Million foreign students are putting 500,000 British families on Job Seekers Allowance and all that goes with it like Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit.

And at least 100,000 of those 1 Million will simply disappear into the Black Economy each year.

Why would anyone want to restrict their numbers?


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Liberal Conspiracy

    MigrationWatch distorts statistics on immigration via students http://bit.ly/hyPDs2

  2. Paul Wood

    RT @libcon: MigrationWatch distorts statistics on immigration via students http://bit.ly/hyPDs2

  3. andrewscheuber

    RT @libcon: MigrationWatch distorts statistics on immigration via students http://bit.ly/hyPDs2

  4. Dirk vom Lehn

    RT @libcon: MigrationWatch distorts statistics on immigration via students http://bit.ly/hyPDs2 – no news from MW – @plegrain

  5. conspiracy theo

    MigrationWatch distorts statistics on immigration via students … http://bit.ly/fVEOJf

  6. Carl Baker

    RT @libcon: MigrationWatch distorts statistics on immigration via students http://bit.ly/hyPDs2

  7. Pucci Dellanno

    RT @libcon: MigrationWatch distorts statistics on immigration via students http://bit.ly/hyPDs2

  8. Bored London Gurl

    MigrationWatch distorts statistics on immigration via students http://bit.ly/i3Zgb5 via @libcon

  9. Chris Keegan

    @marianamota political expediency is the watchword for the coalition gov, here twisting student immigration figures. http://t.co/DterWIk

  10. roundclapton

    (right-wing, eugenicist, darling of Media estab.) MigrationWatch distort statistics on immigration via students:
    http://tinyurl.com/4gb7mg4

  11. Good immigration policy must be based on good evidence | Left Foot Forward

    […] that student migration has remained fairly stable in recent years. I’ve written about this before, and student migration statistics are explored in more detail in an ippr report published […]





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