The UK Independence Party is notoriously known for their strict policies on immigration. Therefore it will have come as a shock to some people when they announced their pledge to remove international students from immigration figures. The shock move sees Ukip join Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the Green Party in advocating the switch. The Conservatives are now the only national political party polling at higher than 5% to not have pledged such a move.
Universities UK has lobbied political parties for a long time to seek the removal of non-European Union university students for net migration targets (at present European Union legislation already states that students from member states must be taken out of net migration figures).
A spokesman for Ukip said:
“[We know] that the UK has some of the finest educational establishments in the world, and we believe that students from around the world should be encouraged to come here to study in our first-class facilities.
“We do not feel the need to add student numbers into the country’s migration figures because they are usually here on student visas, unless they are from within the EU”.
They went on to say:
“These potential students will have to meet the correct criteria, varying from financial support and qualification. Our policy is that every student who is not a citizen of Great Britain should be able to apply to study here under a short-term student visa varying from one, three and five years.
“After their visa […] has expired they will have to apply for permanent residency if they have found employment within a specific sector. If not then they will have to return to their country of origin”.
However, Lesley Grahame, the Green Party’s 2015 general election candidate for Norwich South, indicated that Ukip’s policy was a part of a much larger plan for immigration: “Taking EU students out of migration numbers is a fairly harmless, if cynical way of reducing the numbers.
“The more worrying point is that Ukip plans to charge excessive, perhaps prohibitive tuition fees to overseas students and to add to the list of people who are unwelcome… Ukip are asking the wrong questions about migration”.