Speaking at the UUK annual conference today, David Willetts announced that ‘transparency in immigration statistics is vital. We therefore want to publicise disaggregated figures so that the debate can be better informed.’
Reacting to this, Colin Riordan, Chair of our international policy network and Vice Chancellor of Cardiff University said he was ‘actually lost for words to describe how wonderful’ it was.
He’s right. David Willetts has consistently argued the case in government for a policy which recognises the enormous value of international students to the UK. This announcement is a really important step in the right direction.
Some commentators have described it as a fudge. I don’t think it is. I have spent a large part of the last year arguing with people about numbers, trading pretty useless data and squabbling about the interpretation. It is a complete waste of time. We need better data and a proper debate. This announcement will be a great help in aiding public understanding of temporary and permanent migration flows.
UUK also wants to help by helping universities with their responsibilities under the visa system. We’ll be running compliance workshops from this autumn, with the UKBA, to help them get it right. We’ll also be exploring how universities can gather and share better data on their own international students.
Of course, we want the government to go further and remove students from government targets to reduce net migration. But today’s announcement will at least make it clear what is happening to student flows.
This is one of those moments, as a lobbyist, when you stop arguing and say thank you.