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Public divided over international students and migration targets

The British public is divided over whether international students should be included in the UK net migration target.

The findings of research by Ipsos MORI, published in a report this month, shows that 40 per cent of the public think that foreign student numbers should not be included in net migration targets, while 53 per cent say they should.

The report, Perceptions and Reality: Public Attitudes to Immigration, which compiles findings from more than 60 polls and datasets, says the split in public opinion comes despite student migrants being one of the most welcomed of migrant groups.

Half of the public think foreign students have a positive effect on Britain, with only 15 per cent saying they have a negative impact. Only around a third think immigration as a whole has been good for the economy.

Just under a third (32 per cent) of survey respondents wanted to reduce the number of international students in Britain, the report shows – in comparison to 64 per cent who wanted to reduce low skilled workers.

The report also shows that student migration is now the largest form of migration to the UK - compared with migration for work, family and asylum reasons.

“The current government has made their choice, and given that a majority say they would like student numbers included in the net migration target, it seems reasonable for them to conclude that our desire for any type of reduction currently outweighs our likely assessment of the downsides,” the report says.