The OECD report Education at a Glance 2009 shows the disturbing fact that during the last 10 years it hasn't become more economically advantageous to undertake higher education in the UK. This has of course affected the number of people doing degrees at the university. During this period the number of people undertaking degrees has stayed about the same; however, this stability has been due to an increase in the intake of international students. Today about 10% of all postgraduate students undertaking advanced degrees at British Universities are from abroad. The OECD report also reveals that about half of all students graduating from their research degrees are not from the UK.
So what? Well the problem is that the British migration system has at the same time made it increasingly difficult for international students to stay in the UK after finishing their degree. The consequence is that the UK has had to wave goodbye to more than 10% of this innovative raw material because of burdensome regulation.
As Martin Wolf argued in the Financial Times earlier this month, the UK government has failed to engage in a public discussion on migration policies. Now more than ever it is essential to argue the case that immigrants do have an important role in the UK economy. In the long run the UK cannot live without immigrants but it can’t cope with too many of the non working type either. It is therefore of great importance that the UK government starts to reform the system, positively encouraging people to settle down in the UK to work. As part of the process we should ensure that it is more affordable to work in the UK, that taxation is more competitive and overbearing administration reduced.