UK Universities should ignore migration targets set by Westminster, says Alan Manning, the government’s lead adviser on migration.
Manning, chairman of the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC), is also a professor of economics at LSE.
The 74-year old has claimed that the government no longer pays attention to their goal of reducing migration to below the 100,000 threshold.
Ahead of the 2017 General Election, Theresa May confirmed that it was her intention to stick to this target, despite the coalition’s notable failure to bring numbers down to the tens of thousands, a level that May termed “sustainable”.
Despite this, there was no sign of this figure of 100,000 in the recent Immigration White Paper. Manning noted that the government no longer pays attention to the limit, and assured those across the Higher Education field that student migration would not be affected by it.
Manning said: ”My advice to people who worry about the net migration target is to say just pretend it doesn’t exist … [It] is not really influencing policy on student migration at all at the moment and if you keep on mentioning it you’re actually drawing attention to it and pretending it’s a problem when actually it really isn’t.”
Manning was embroiled in controversy last year when he confirmed that the MAC’s report on the impact of migration policy on international students would include this group in final migration statistics.
Manning claimed that, ”removing students from the net migration statistics would make almost no difference to the actual figures,” but was also criticised for refusing to recommend the re-introduction of post-study work visas.
With the publication of the White Paper back in December, the government announced a ‘skills-based’ plan for immigration, confirming that all students who had completed a degree at a UK institution would be given six months’ post-study leave, with a full year for PhD graduates.
Many have pointed to the success of the post-study visa system in Australia as evidence of the necessity to implement it in the UK.
One such voice is Nick Hillman, director of the Higher Education Policy Institute: “Why do we put these absurd constraints on one of the very few sectors where our country is truly world class?” he asked. “We should be redialling everything the way the Australians have done.”
Manning dismissed such claims however, saying, “You can already find, for example, the Australian Labor Party saying this system is out of control.
”I wouldn’t be that surprised if that actually turns into something of a boom or bust situation. I really don’t think that would be in the interests of the [UK] sector.”
However, the future relationship of migration and Higher Education in the UK is currently being dominated by the uncertainty of the Erasmus+ system post-Brexit.
It remains unclear as to whether the European exchange programme will be in operation at UK Institutions and for UK students post-2020.
Although the government has underwritten funding for Erasmus to continue until the end of 2020, practical measures to ensure the program remains in operation have not been clarified.