International students are included in net migration statistics that are produced by the independent Office for National Statistics (ONS). In line with the internationally agreed UN definition, these statistics define a migrant as someone changing their normal place of residence for more than a year. Students are therefore included in the same way as other migrants. Other countries, such as the United States, Canada, and Australia also include students in their net migration figures. Like other migrants, students who stay for longer than 12 months have an impact on communities, infrastructure and services while they are here, so it is right that they are included in the net migration count. The ONS estimates that in the year ending March 2015 there was a difference of 96,000 in the number of non-EU students coming to and leaving the UK. Therefore student emigration, or the lack of it, is a key driver of overall net migration.
We have an excellent offer for international students, and as a result we remain the second most popular destination in the world for international higher education students. The latest figures show that visa applications sponsored by universities were now 17% higher than they were in 2010, and the corresponding figure for Russell Group universities was 33%.
The Home Office publishes statistics on entry clearance visa grants broken down by category in table vi_04 (Entry clearance visas tables volume 4) within the ‘Immigration Statistics’ release, and in the Visas topic. Data for numbers of entry clearance visas granted for study (Tier 4 & pre-PBS equivalent) are separately identified. An example summary table from the Visas topic, identifying data for students, is provided below.
Entry clearance visas granted by reason (excluding visitor and transit visas)
Total issued (1)
Student visitors (2)
Dependant joining or accompanying
YE June 2010
YE June 2011
YE June 2012
YE June 2013
YE June 2014
YE June 2015
Change: latest year
[h4] Table notes
(1) Excluding visitor and transit visas
(2) Student visitors are allowed to come to the UK for 6 months (or 11 months if they will be studying an English Language course) and cannot extend their stay. For consistency and comparability over time student visitor visas have been excluded from study-related totals.
A copy of the latest release, “Immigration Statistics April to June 2015”, is available from the Library of the House and the Home Office website: https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/home-office/series/immigration-statistics-quarterly-release
Similarly the Office for National Statistics figures on international migration to the UK (those changing their usual residence for 12 months or more) separately identify those whose main reason for migration is to study. The ONS figures are published as part of the Migration Statistics Quarterly Report, and are available from the Library of the House. The latest edition is available at http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/migration1/migration-statistics-quarterly-report/august-2015/stb-msqr-august-2015.html