Theresa May has re-iterated her determination to lead efforts to force non-EU international students to leave Britain after they complete their studies.
The Home Secretary has led calls – alongside Immigration Minister James Brokenshire – for international students to “break the link” between short term study and permanent settlement in Britain.
New measures proposed by Mrs May will force non-EU students to leave the UK after their studies and apply for jobs from their country of origin.
The measures are seen as one of many plans aimed at reducing net migration to the UK, which hit a record 330,000 in the year to March, according to figures revealed by the Office of National Statistics on Thursday.
Writing in the Sunday Times, Mrs May said: “Thursday’s statistics clearly show that too many students are not here temporarily. The gap between the number of non-EU students coming to this country and departing each year is 96,000 – half the net migration from beyond the EU.”
The home secretary has been looking into further tightening up the rules surrounding student visas, with a leaked document sent to ministers showing she was considering requiring international students to demonstrate they had signifiant independent financial means before offering them a place to study.
The document suggests that universities be forced to “develop sustainable funding models that are not so dependent on international students”.
Mrs May also took aim at EU Migration in her editorial.
She argued that Europe’s Schengen Visa system was “broken”, saying that EU migrants will have to show they have a job lined up before they are allowed into the UK.
The Schengen Agreement, which allows jobless citizens to move to countries in search of work and benefits, put pressure on public services and infrastructure, she wrote.
The Home Secretary wrote: “Reducing net EU migration need not mean undermining the principle of free movement.
“When it was first enshrined, free movement meant the freedom to move to a job, not the freedom to cross borders to look for work or claim benefits.
“Yet last year, four out of 10 EU migrants, 63,000 people, came here with no definite job whatsoever.
“We must take some big decisions, face down powerful interests and reinstate the original principle underlying free movement within the EU.”
Many however, have called Mrs May’s proposals “unworkable”.
A number of leading business figures have led calls for international students – particularly from outside the EU – to be taken out of net migration figures, saying that targeting international students was detrimental to the British economy.
Still others say that Mrs May’s proposal in relation to EU migrants would mean that British citizens would not be able to move freely across Europe, including the tens of thousands of British pensioners who have settled in countries such as Spain, France and Italy.