University backs calls for rethink of the status of international students

Photo: Sammi McKee

The University of St Andrews has backed calls for the UK government to reassess the status of international students.

Currently international students are classified as migrants, while the University has said this should be changed so that they are classified as temporary visitors instead.

The call from the University comes as a new report found widespread concerns about anti-immigration rhetoric from international students, who are currently included in the Government’s net migration target.

The report by the business lobby London First and the PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) consultancy aimed to quantify the economic costs and benefits of non-EU international students studying at UK universities to both London and the UK economy.

According to the study, many international students say Britain’s immigration system has negatively affected their experience of studying in the UK. The report also found that a majority of international students found it difficult to secure work in the UK after completing their studies.

The report also found that international students contribute £2.8bn in fees and consumer spending, while the cost of providing them with public services is £540m.

St Andrews has the highest proportion of international students of any university in the UK, with approximately one third being from non EU countries.

Dr Anne Mullen, Vice-Principal International at St Andrews, said:

“St Andrews has always been and will remain a resolutely outward-looking institution and a global player; the economic contribution of our international students is welcome and significant for Scotland.

“In equal measure, our international students play a crucial role in ensuring we sustain and nurture a learning and social environment which is engaged with diversity, enabling our whole student population to grow as cross-culturally sensitive global citizens.”

Jo Valentine, chief executive of London First, said: “International students are made to feel unwelcome because of anti-immigration rhetoric – and the fact that they are currently included in the government’s net migration target. But students’ expenditure here is a modern-day export: they pay substantial fees and contribute significantly in consumer spending.

“As a matter of priority, our new government should follow the lead of Australia and Canada and reclassify international students as temporary visitors, not migrants. It makes no sense to imply through classification and rhetoric that they are unwelcome, which is harming our universities’ abilities to sell education to talented students around the world.”


  1. This is mere political posturing, nothing more. A statement is not action, and international students would like to see actual action taken by the university to ensure that international students are made to feel welcome, perhaps by paying some of those pesky fees for us, as we pay more than enough in tuition already, not to mention travel costs to and from our homes to university.

    • I agree with your sentiments.
      I want international students to stay in the UK and study here and I hope we don’t make you feel too unwelcome!

      But please bear in mind that tuition is generally higher for international students due to the fact that higher education is partly state-financed (obviously this is becoming less so recently), so why would someone with no connection to the UK other than to study, and, who have not contributed in taxes, should be expected to benefit from this kind of subsidy?

  2. Of course the university is pandering to international students. And of course the university is very worried.

    The institution would go bust if it weren’t for overseas fee-paying students. Hence the stated commitment to steadily increase the number (and proportion) of international students over the next few years.


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