Some interesting figures emerge today in a City AM piece by Baroness Jo Valentine of London First, who commissioned a poll by ComRes to discover if Londoners think foreign students should be treated as immigrants. In the case of non-EU students studying in Britain, only 17 percent of people think of them as immigrants. For EU students the figure drops to 15 percent.
Furthermore, their view of foreign students here is highly positive. Some 66 percent of people think that foreign students provide useful global networks to promote trade with the UK. The proportion thinking they pay tuition fees and make a valuable contribution to the UK economy rises to 72 percent. And the number who think they bring valuable skills to the UK after graduation is 68 percent. These are all very positive numbers.
The negative outlook is shared by only a minority. Only 32 percent think they take places from UK students. Only 25 percent think they should study in their own countries, and only 19 percent regard them as having a negative impact on public services.
This confirms something the ASI has said all along. The UK has a multi-talented and diverse workforce, and should act to sustain its high skills talent pool. Some who campaign against immigration add students to their numbers to augment them, even though the public agrees that international students constitute a great asset. We should re-classify them as temporary visitors and look favourably on those who want work visas after graduation.
Of course we don't want bogus "English Schools" bringing in unqualified immigrants illegally, but we do most certainly want the talented, the skilled - those who qualify for admission and study at our academic institutions. It is a small step to stop treating foreign students as immigrants, but it is one that would be beneficial to Britain and help keep our businesses competitive.