Foreign students make 'huge' contribution to Sheffield says city university after migration estimate falls

Students back the #WeAreInternation campaign in Sheffield.
Students back the #WeAreInternation campaign in Sheffield.
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A Sheffield university has praised its international students after a new report showed far more left the UK after finishing their studies than previously thought.

Data released today by the Office for National Statistics showed about 4,600 foreigners overstayed their student visas last year.

Previous estimates had been closer to 100,000 - a figure many universities has questioned.

The Government today launched a review into the benefits international students bring, and Prime Minister Theresa May has come under pressure not to include them in her aim to bring net migration down by 'tens of thousands'.

Sheffield is home to more than 10,000 international students from around 140 countries, studying at the city's two universities and Sheffield College.

The University of Sheffield and its students' union founded the #WeAreInternational campaign to celebrate the contribution of overseas students.

Sheffield has more than 10,000 international students.

Sheffield has more than 10,000 international students.

President and vice-chancellor Sir Keith Burnett said: “These figures reiterate what our campaign has long emphasised – international students are not immigrants to be discouraged but, in the vast majority of cases, temporary visitors to our country making an investment in their future and ours.

“The myth that many international students overstay their visas after they graduate, and the negative narrative around immigration, risk us going backwards – and it is our duty to challenge it.

"Those few graduates who do stay on make a huge contribution in areas where their talents are crucial to us.”

In November last year Sir Keith said he was 'ashamed' of Mrs May's attitude towards Indian students.

The Government is to look into the benefits overseas students bring.

The Government is to look into the benefits overseas students bring.

The then home secretary placed stricter visa controls on international students and suggested study visas were used by foreigners wanting to work in the UK as a backdoor route.

The number of Indian students coming to the UK has fallen since then.

Sir Keith said: “Universities are a place of hope and excellence precisely because we are international.

"We need to see international students for what they are – a precious part of our universities and our society."

He added: “If the UK is to have a positive future it must be open to the world, and one of the most positive ways we can achieve this is through education.

"If we welcome international students as the wonderful asset they are to our universities and communities we will all reap the benefits.

"Government policy should properly reflect this and any targets to reduce numbers of immigrants which include international students should be dropped.”

Sheffield Central MP Paul Blomfield is a #WeAreInternational supporter.

He said today's figures confirmed 'what many of us have been arguing'.

“International students enrich the learning environment for UK students, add to the research capacity of our universities which supports business growth, and contribute massively to the economy, creating tens of thousands of jobs in towns and cities across the country," he said.

"In Sheffield alone that's worth around £200 million and perhaps 10,000 jobs in every sector.

“The review commissioned by the Government must be the first step in changing course and re-establishing the UK as the first choice for international students.”