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New research on international study programs at UK universities shows favorable opinions towards foreign students at universities in Great Britain. ComRes researchers surveyed more than four thousand Britons in late March 2017. Their survey found that two-thirds of British adults think international students have a positive impact on local economies of the towns and cities in which they study. Seventy-five percent of respondents said international students should be allowed to work in the UK for a fixed time after they have graduated, rather than returning immediately to their home country. Only 26% would count foreign students as immigrants when considering UK immigration policy.

The study was commissioned by Universities UK, which has also reported findings that international students provide a huge boost for local economies throughout the UK. This is key data for groups arguing against the government’s policy of counting foreign students as long-term migrants. The number of migrants accepted to the UK is set to be slashed dramatically.  Universities UK is one of the organizations heading the campaign to spare international student numbers from the chopping block.

“If the UK wants to remain a top destination for international students, we need a new immigration policy that encourages them to choose the UK. As the UK prepares to exit the EU, it is more important than ever that we project a welcoming message to talented people from across the world,” said Julia Goodfellow, president of Universities UK and vice-chancellor of the University of Kent.

The Independent and the Open Britain group are also running a Drop the Target campaign calling for the method of counting international students as immigrants to be scrapped. Teresa May has said foreign students are included net migration figures because the UK abides by the same definition that is used by other countries around the world. According to the UN, a migrant is “a person who moves to a country other than that of his or her usual residence for a period of at least a year . . . so that the country of destination effectively becomes his or her new country of usual residence”. Despite this definition, the US, Australia and Canada, have all opted to reclassify international students as temporary migrants.