A report from the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee has revealed a 10% decline in the number of foreign students studying STEM subjects at British universities.
The drop in the number of international STEM students in Britain is the first in almost three decades according to the House of Lords Committee.
This is a response to “overblown rhetoric” on immigration says the report which also highlights the diametrically opposed ambitions of Prime Minister David Cameron to reduce net immigration to “tens of thousands” of people per year and of Business Secretary Vince Cable to increase the number of international students in the UK be 10%-15% in the next five years.
Lord Krebs who chaired the report said in a statement that the Committee had found clear evidence that UK immigration rules were giving foreign students the “cold shoulder” and encouraging them to seek their education with competitor higher education systems.
The decline in foreign STEM students is also endangering the quality of STEM education for UK nationals said the report which highlighted the significant levels of funding that international students bring to science technology and engineering departments in British higher education institutions.
A spokesperson from the Home Office denied these accusations saying, “We are controlling immigration while still attracting the brightest and the best – as the published figures show.”
However, as industry seeks to tackle skills gaps, often by plugging immediate shortfalls with foreign talent, the report has raised concerns in the manufacturing community.
Tim Thomas, head of employment and Skills Policy at manufacturing trade body EEF commented:
“Today’s report adds further weight to our argument that the UK’s migration system is deterring international talent from studying STEM subjects in the UK. Government must stop burying its head in the sand and realise that current policy and rhetoric around student migration is sending a negative image of the UK to the rest of the world.”
Mr Thomas continued, “Manufacturers remain dumbfounded at the cost and complexity of the migration system as well as the decision to abolish the post-study work route. We wholly support the Committee’s recommendations to tackle these issues head on including immediately reinstating the post-study work route and bringing costs in line with our international competitors.”
EEF submitted significant evidence to the House of Lords Committee which helped generate its recommendations for reform of immigration policy to be more welcoming to international students, particularly of STEM subjects.