Three-quarters of the British public would like to see the same or an increased number of international students in the UK, according to a new poll.
TheComRes poll for Universities UK also found that 91% of British adults believe that international students should be able to stay and work in the UK for a period of time after they have completed their study.
The news calls further into question Prime Minister Theresa May’s hardline stance against international students, who she believes routinely abuse and exploit the system.
The government has already been left red-faced this week, after a leaked Home Office report suggested that the government had misled the public over immigration statistics related to foreign students.
The report suggested that only 1% of students overstay their visa permit, despite the government suggesting in the past that the figure was far higher.
Overseas students make an enormous contribution to the British economy. Research shows that they support 170,000 UK jobs, and are worth over £10.7 billion to the economy annually.
Despite this, May is reportedly determined to crack down on the number coming to the country. The Times reports that home Amber Rudd tried to remove students from official immigration statistics, in order to protect them from an impending post-Brexit crackdown on immigration, but May blocked the move.
The poll, which questioned over 2,000 adults, also found that:
• Of those that expressed a view, 81% agreed that international students have a positive impact on local economies and towns in which they study — 25% of British adults did not express a view either way.
• 71% of those who expressed a view would support a policy to help boost growth by increasing overseas students, while only 9% oppose the idea. 25% of British adults did not express a view.
• Just 25% of leave and 23% of remain voters said that they think of international students as immigrants.
Nicola Dandridge, chief executive of Universities UK, said: “These findings are a clear indication that any new policies aimed at lowering migration figures by reducing the number of overseas students will not address public concerns over immigration.
“International students come to the UK, are welcomed by British people, study for a period, and then the overwhelming majority go home after their studies,” she said.
“It is very clear that a majority of the public recognises that international students are valuable, temporary visitors that make an important economic and cultural contribution to the UK,” she added.
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