The Government has been accused of taking a “contradictory” stance towards international students / Getty Images


The Government has been accused of taking a “contradictory” stance towards encouraging international students to study in UK universities.

On the one hand, Prime Minister David Cameron says there is a need for net migration to “come down radically from hundreds of thousands a year”, says a report from the House of Lords Science and Technology committee.

Yet, on the other, it has stated that “it is realistic for numbers of international students in higher education to grow by 15 to 20 per cent over the next five years.”

“The danger is that in trying to reduce net migration, there will be an albeit unintended impact on the recruitment of international students, which the Government say they wish to attract,” the report concludes.

It urges the Government to remove students from the net migration figures, a cause taken up by Labour’s Shadow Home secretary Yvette Cooper yesterday, on the grounds they are responsible for the largest number of immigrants coming into the country. Ministers have argued they cannot do this if they are to comply with UN regulations.

Despite assurances to the contrary, the Russell Group, representing 24 of the country’s most sought after universities, argues to refuse to remove them “could lead to the perception that the UK is not ‘open for business’ to international students".

Peers also criticise the UK for only allowing international students a four-month extension to their visas for post-study work - and for starting the clock the moment they complete their course instead of when they receive their degree results. This compares to 12 months in Ireland and France and 18 months in Germany.