30/08/2012 06:48 BST | Updated 30/08/2012 06:50 BST

Immigration Figures Show 21% Decline In Student Visas - But Government Still Off Target

The number of student visas issued in the last year has fallen by 21%, according to figures released on Thursday morning.

The migration figures showed there were 282,833 visas in the year to June 2012 issued for the purpose of study, including student visitors - a fall of 21% compared with the previous year, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

It comes as it was announced more than 2,000 students are facing deportation when London Metropolitan University (LMU) has had its Highly Trusted Sponsor (HTS) status revoked after the UKBA cited failure to "address serious and systemic failings" as the reason for the withdrawal.

The move came less than three weeks before the start of the September term and was described by the National Union of Students' president as "disgusting".

Net immigration itself is 36,000 lower than in 2011 at 216,000 a year but the ONS said the difference was not statistically significant.

Immigration minister Damian Green said the figures were "the first sign the measures we'e been taking [to reduce immigration] since we arrived in government two years ago are having an effect."

"The more recent figures, the issuing of visa figures, which cover the period until June of this year show in all categories that visas issued are coming down," he told the BBC.

"This gives me confidence that the fall we've now started seeing in these figures up to the end of last year will continue in the months and years ahead."

He added: "This process is like turning round an oil tanker that was steaming very fast in the wrong direction. We've now turned the tanker around and it's beginning to go in the right direction."

But Michael Cornes, operations director at international education provider Study Group, said the figures were "concerning for the higher education sector and education industry as a whole" and should act as a wake-up call for the Government.

"A fall of 21% in the number of student visas issued up to June 2012 does not show that the government's migration tactics are working, just that it is driving the 'brightest and the best' to our main competitors in the international education market," he said.

Sarah Mulley, Associate Director at think tank the IPPR said the student visa decline did not mean the government would meet its goal to reduce migration to the tens of thousands.

"Even reductions on this scale seem unlikely to be enough to get net migration under 100,000, not least because student migration is mostly short-term, which means that reduced immigration now leads to reduced emigration later, drastically reducing the impact on net migration after the first year or two."

SEE ALSO: London Metropolitan University Stripped Of HTS Status; 2,000 Students Face Deportation