By Claire West

New statistics released yesterday show that net migration continued to rise in the year to June 2010. It appears that a continuing boom in the number of foreign students coming to the UK may be one of the factors which explain the increase. However an ippr analysis of the latest migration figures shows that the official data on which the government is relying presents a confused picture on student migration.

While the International Passenger Survey suggests that student immigration rose by over 40 per cent between the year to June 2009 and the year to June 2010, Home Office visa data showed that the number of student visas issued in 2010 (excluding student visitors) was 7 per cent lower than in 2009.

Student Migration in the UK, published earlier this week, explores the data on student migration in more detail, and argues that the government's proposed reforms to the student visa regime could cause substantial harm to the UK's education sector and economy, without delivering sustained reductions in total net migration.

Sarah Mulley, Associate Director for Migration, Trade and Development at ippr, said:

'As the government considers major reforms to the student visa system, it is essential that better evidence about the scale and impact of student migration to the UK is collected. There is a real risk that policies based on uncertain and poor quality data cause very real damage to our universities and colleges, and to the UK economy.'

The rise in net migration to June 2010 seems to have been driven largely by falling emigration (of both UK and non-UK nationals), rather than rising immigration. This poses a further challenge to the government's objective to reduce total net migration to the UK by more than half, as it can have only a limited impact on the number of people emigrating. ippr published its quarterly Migration Statistics Review: February 2011 today.