Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

No Talk of U-Turns, Please: Call for Cross-Party Unity on Immigration Shift

Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

No Talk of U-Turns, Please: Call for Cross-Party Unity on Immigration Shift

Article excerpt

A Tory MP and a Labour colleague from a parliamentary committee have called for cross-party consensus on withdrawing overseas students from net migration figures so the government can make the policy shift without being accused by the opposition of "fiddling the figures".

Nadhim Zahawi, of the Conservatives, and Paul Blomfield, of Labour - both members of the Business, Innovation and Skills Committee - appeared together at a fringe event during the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham.

The event on overseas students and immigration on 8 October was hosted by the 2020 Conservatives, a group of modernising Tory MPs.

Mr Blomfield, the MP for Sheffield Central, said his presence at the Conservative conference not only prompted "surprised faces on a number of Conservative colleagues" but "demonstrates that we can work together on issues of importance where we share common interests".

The consensus that emerged between the two backbenchers will raise hopes among universities that the Conservative and Labour front benches may reach similar agreement.

Universities UK has mounted a lobbying campaign to urge the government to remove university-sponsored non-European Union students from the net migration count - which would mean that the Home Office no longer had reason to reduce the number of overseas students coming to the UK.

In addition, many in the sector believe that the policy shift is the only way for the coalition to meet the Conservative manifesto commitment to reduce net migration to the "tens of thousands" by 2015.

Although the government has said that it will now gather additional "disaggregated" figures that exclude overseas students, the official net migrant count still includes students. …

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