Theresa May has caved in to demands to take foreign students out of immigration totals as part of the price for calling the early election.
The Prime Minister had previously rejected calls from cabinet colleagues including Boris Johnson, Philip Hammond and Amber Rudd to soften her stance, but The Times reports she is now compromising in order to ensure university reforms can pass before the dissolution of parliament.
The concession means that foreign students will no longer be counted by official agencies when calculating immigration figures. Around 134,000 international students arrived in 2015-16, a decrease from 175,000 in the previous year.
Mrs May had been facing a potentially damaging revolt from Conservative MPs this week on the policy, with rebels confident they could inflict defeat on the government.
The House of Lords had passed an amendment to the Higher Education and Research Bill that took foreign students out of the figures, which is now due to be considered by the Commons.
Rebel Tory MP Anna Soubry said: “The majority of people don’t believe overseas students should be in our immigration statistics, and for good reason.
“The Government is showing welcome signs of pragmatism and common sense on immigration. I very much hope the Government will take international students out of the immigration figures.”
However, the Prime Minister’s concession has faced criticism from some.
Alp Mehmet, Vice Chairman of Migration Watch UK, said: “The student route has undoubtedly been a major source of abuse in the past although it has been tightened in recent years. If student numbers are to be shown separately in future it is essential that they be published alongside the net migration figures on every occasion.”
Speaking earlier this month, the Prime Minister had previously said: “Students are in the net migration figures because it is in the international definition of net migration and we abide by the same definition that is used by other countries around the world.”