International boarders are not immigrants, insist schools
Boarding schools have implored the government to remove the number of overseas pupils from net immigration figures.
The Boarding Schools Association (BSA) have, in an open letter to Immigration Minister Mark Harper, requested that foreign pupils boarding in the UK should not be included in net immigration figures.
The BSA claim that including these pupils in the figures could drive foreign students away by sending the message that they are ‘not wanted’.
The BSA represents 462 boarding schools, with about 73,000 pupils in both state and private sectors. According to their figures, overseas students brought in £510 million in school fees last year alone.
Mr Newton, a member of the BSA's national executive committee, said that branding these pupils immigrants would “damage valuable schools for whom international students are commercially vital, and to do serious harm to the British economy when it is already fragile."
John Newton, of Taunton School, said that the pupils should be known as ‘temporary migrants’.
Two MPs' reports have already urged the government to reclassify international students to remove them from immigration figures.
The government has said it wants to develop a new system of student migration in and out of the UK, but the debate has so far focused on university or college students.
Earlier this month, London Metropolitan University began legal proceedings to challenge a ban by the UK Border Agency (UKBA) on its recruitment of overseas students.
The UKBA claimed the university was not making proper checks on the students. The move was part of a crack-down on alleged abuse of the student visa system. London Met was the first university to lose its right to sponsor students from outside of the European Union for their visas.
A spokesman for UKBA countered by saying that altering the internationally agreed definition of a migrant could undermine public confidence in their statistics.
However, The Boarding Schools Association letter assures the minister; stating, "Ours is a safe sector as compliant as UKBA could wish, and our incoming students are as safe a category of student as you could devise."