25/08/2011 08:05 BST | Updated 24/10/2011 06:12 BST

Studying In The UK Main Reason For Net Migration

Net migration to the UK increased last year by more than 20 per cent, official figures show.

The Office for National Statistics report, published on Thursday, revealed that 239,000 people migrated to the UK last year.

This increase goes against the government's pledge to lower net migration to tens of thousands by 2015.

Studying remains the most common reason for migrating into the United Kingdom since 2009. Just over three quarters of the 228,000 immigrant students in the UK are non-EU citizens.

Responding to the figures, Matt Cavanagh, Associate Director of the think-tank IPPR, said:

“The government’s policies on student migration appear to have had little effect so far, with 358,000 student visas granted in the year to June 2011, a reduction of one per cent from the year to July 2011".

However a spokesperson for the University think-tank Million+ told the Huffington Post UK it was too soon to see the effect of the government's recent changed to student visa regulations.

"The concern remains that these changes could have a damaging impact on universities and students and could cost the UK economy £3.6bn."

Sir Andrew Green of Migration Watch UK said students were "a particular area of concern", but for different reasons.

"We need stronger measures to deal with bogus student applications. The coalition government will have to face down some vested interests if they are to get anywhere near their target of tens of thousands."

In terms of work immigration and emigration, people migrating to the UK for a job that they have already secured is at its lowest level since 2004 and has been declining since 2008.

The number of British people leaving for work overseas was the main factor in emigration. It remained high, but at its lowest since 2005.

Immigration minister Damian Green defended the government's record saying the period covered by the ONS predated the coalition's changes to the immigration system.

"This explains why the government radically changed immigration policy, from our first months in office, to drive the numbers down with a limit on economic migration and changes to student visas to ensure we attract the brightest and best whilst tackling widespread abuse of the system."

But Shabana Mahmood, Shadow Home Office Minister, accused the government of being dishonest with the British public.

"These figures reveal the gulf between the government's rhetoric on immigration, and the reality we see in the official figures.

"Cuts to the UK Border Agency forcing the loss of over 5,000 staff is making it harder not easier to enforce the rules we have.

"It just goes to show the government is turning its back on the fight against illegal immigration too, its rhetoric simply does not match the reality."