The Liberal Democrats have slammed the fall in non-EU students studying at British universities.
Alistair Carmichael, the party’s Home Affairs spokesperson, lambasted the fall which he said showed the government’s fixation with their immigration target was undermining Britain’s economy and the university sector.
Long-term immigration to the UK for all immigrants for study has dropped to the lowest level since 2007.
Figures from the ONS quarterly migration statistics show international student numbers fell by 28,000 in the year ending in March 2016 to 164,000. Last year 192,000 international students came to the UK.
The fall in numbers hit applications to universities and further education colleges.
Commenting Alistair Carmichael said:
“Theresa May spent the last 6 years as Home Secretary pursuing a stupid and undeliverable target to reduce immigration to the tens of thousands. That broken promise has damaged public confidence, but if it was delivered it would damage the economy.
“What we are seeing here is a fall in international students who pay huge sums to study at our universities off the back of the Conservatives’ obsession with trying to chase an arbitrary immigration target. International students, by the Government’s own estimates, contribute billions of pounds to our economy every year and are a vital to local economies up and down the country.
"Cutting the numbers of international students is the definition of shortsighted. Rather than undermining our universities the Prime Minister should abandon her manifesto commitment, back our universities and encourage the best and brightest in the world to study in the UK.”
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