How many non-EU students stay in the UK?

From Professor Carlos Varga-Silva, University of Oxford, on The Conversation:

“The UK government has placed extra restrictions on non-EU students staying in the UK after finishing their studies and there are reports that the home secretary, Theresa May, plans to restrict student migration even further.”

“There are two key sources of student migration data to the UK: administrative visa data from the Home Office and International Passenger Survey (IPS) data from the Office for National Statistics.”

“In 2014, there were 200,000 study-related visas granted to main applicants, according to the Home Office. This is a slight increase (+0.4%) compared to 2013, but lower than the peak of 273,000 in 2009. The IPS data suggests a similar trend.”

The biggest drop in student visas has been for those going to Further Education colleges. “There was a 10% decrease in the number of study visa applications in the further education sector in 2014, which dropped to 19,000 from 65,000 in 2010.”

From Study Visa to Work Visa:

“Student visas expire shortly after the course ends. However, student visa holders may be able to stay legally in the UK if they switch to another category, such as work or family.

Switching from study to work has become harder in the past few years because of the elimination of the post-study work programme in 2012. Some policies that facilitate students’ transition into the labour market after graduation using what are called Tier 2 visas do still remain in place.

People switching from study to work are currently not subject to the cap on the number of Tier 2 sponsorships, which is set at 20,700 a year, divided monthly. This means they currently do not have to meet newly increased salary requirements that kick in if this monthly cap is met.

In June 2015, the first time the monthly cap was met, and people earning less than £46,000 per year were refused visas. Employers who take on a student who has switched to a work visa are also exempt from the requirement to show they have looked for UK or EEA candidates.

But the UK government has recently announced further restrictions on the rights of students to stay in the UK after finishing their studies.”

“The majority (59%) switched into work, while 33% switched into the family category.”

“The IPS suggests that 135,000 non-EU students entered the UK for study in 2014. The number of people who had previously arrived as students and who are estimated to have emigrated from the UK in 2014 was 44,000.

Taken together, this suggests that in 2014, net migration of students according to the IPS was 91,000 – that is, 91,000 more new students arrived than former students left. This snapshot must be interpreted carefully, because the people arriving and leaving are part of different cohorts. We do not yet know how many of the 2014 student cohort will leave, as many are not expected to do so for a few years.”

If numbers remain stable, there are around 90,000 former students staying in the UK, mostly to work. International students bring significant economic benefits to the UK, as this briefing shows.

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