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The UK’s net migration figures are nothing to worry about

Posted on November 28, 2014
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The UK’s net migration figures have come out. Plenty of people are upset because it has been calculated that on net we have 260,000 immigrants, up from 182,000 in the previous 12 months.

Prime Minister David Cameron had promised to keep net migration down to tens of thousands. Short of forcible emigration, the target was always impossible – partly because of our open borders with the EU, but also because students are included in the net migration figures. In fact, international students are the largest group of migrants from outside the EU counted in the government’s net migration figures, representing around a third of all people coming into Britain.

 Students should be taken out of the net migration figures. Lord Bilimoria CBE writes as much in the foreword of a new report released today, Made in the UK: Unlocking the Door to International Graduates. Our report, which we undertook with the National Union of Students, considers the position of international students – that is, students from outside the European Union – who want to start a business in the UK.We find that nearly half, 42%, of international students intend to start up their own business following graduation, but only a third these want to do so in the UK. The reason for this is simple: we are not making them feel welcome and we are making too complicated. Only 17% of students wanting to start a business think their institution offered enough specific entrepreneur or enterprise advice and guidance. While only 18% believe the UK has better post-study processes in place for international students than other countries; 32% think it is worse than other countries.International students wanting to start a business in the UK need to apply for the Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) visa, for which they need to be endorsed by their university. Sadly, universities aren’t supporting international students in their efforts – nearly half, 43%, of students don’t know whether their institution is certified to endorse them for a Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) visa. Only 20% of respondents with entrepreneurial aspirations have considered applying for the UK Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) visa, and just 2% of respondents intending to start a business following graduation applied for one, with almost two thirds, 62%, saying they didn’t even consider it.

Our report puts forward a number of recommendations designed to fix the system. First, the UK government should increase opportunities for international graduates who wish to stay in Britain to develop a business during study by removing the Tier 4 (this is the general visa for international students) ban on self-employment. Second, UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) endorsed accelerators should be permitted to endorse international students for the Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) visa.

Third, the risk for educational institutions in endorsing international graduates for Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) visas should be decoupled from institutions’ Tier 4 licence. This should be made explicit in the official Home Office guidance and in the way the Home Office applies its audit procedures for institutions. Fourth, the UK government should reinstate a post-study work visa, decoupled from the sponsor system, to allow international students to explore markets and industry before finalising their business idea for the Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) application.

Despite the anti-immigration rhetoric in the UK’s political debate, the public is overwhelmingly in favour of students coming here to study and work. An ICM poll found that 59% of people think the government should not reduce the number of international students, even if this makes it harder to reduce immigration numbers. Only 22 per cent of the British public would support a reduction in international student numbers. And the majority of people, 75%, are in favour of allowing international students to stay on and work after they finish their degree.

The UK public supports international graduate entrepreneurs – so do our universities and the business community at large. We just need politicians with the nerve to implement the necessary reforms.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/philipsalter/2014/11/27/the-uks-net-migration-figures-are-nothing-to-worry-about/

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