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The Society of Biology welcomes the House of Lords Science & Technology Select Committee's report on international STEM students.

In our response to the inquiry, we emphasised the importance of international students to the culture and economic viability of UK higher education institutions. We expressed concern about the decline in the number of non-EU students entering the UK to study the biosciences and related disciplines since 2010.

International students not only bring skills and training opportunities to the UK, but also make some STEM courses sustainable, specifically post graduate taught masters courses, which are vital to the future pipeline of skilled UK scientists.

Dr Mark Downs, chief executive of the Society of Biology, said: “The UK is losing out to international competitors as increasing numbers of non-EU students are choosing other countries for their university education, while perceptions of our visa system grow ever poorer. It is damaging our universities and reduces choice for domestic students as the economic viability of courses reliant on foreign students declines. It is critical that the Government starts to make clear that foreign students are not only welcome but proactively encouraged.”

We agree with the report recommendations for changes to both policies and Government messaging which create the perception that the UK is not welcoming to overseas students. Communications from the Home Office must be consistent and visa guidelines made clear to effectively communicate the openness of the UK to international students and academics.

Science is by its very nature a global enterprise which relies on the free movement of experts and information. The UK must attract the brightest minds if it is to maintain a global reputation for the excellence of its science.