More doubts about student migration figures

01 August 2017

Three reports relating to international students and the migration debate have been published recently:

Each makes or summarises a number of important points about international students but the OSR report is particularly significant as it casts doubt on the International Passenger Survey (IPS) estimates of the numbers of students who arrive and the number of former students who depart, an issue which has been so hotly debated in the past.

 It says, in paragraphs 17 and 18:

‘ONS [Office for National Statistics] is currently exploring the impact of possible unidentified students, but the extent to which the IPS reliably captures departures of former-students remains unclear. The former-student emigration estimate should represent the best available estimate of student emigration and should add clarity on the student migration gap.  Instead it creates doubts about the patterns of student migration and generates a narrative that is potentially misleading for a topic of major public interest and policy sensitivity.  As the estimate may not provide a complete and coherent picture of former-student emigration, within the context of all student outcomes, it is not sufficiently high quality to meet the needs of users…..’

The report then makes a number of recommendations including:

‘Until ONS has a more complete and coherent picture of former-student emigration, ONS should publish the former-student emigration estimate, including the back-series to 2012, as experimental statistics in all upcoming student migration statistics……’