LANGUAGE students must be taken out of the government’s net migration figures, an industry leader has said.

Sarah Cooper, chief executive of the accredited language school body English UK, said Britain needed to send a message that students would be welcome post-Brexit.

She said 497,028 English language students visited the UK in 2017, a 14 per cent rise after three years of falling numbers.

She spoke at the launch of an English UK South group in Bournemouth – one of two major industry events in the town on the same day.

English UK South will represent organisations in Dorset, Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, focusing on marketing the region internationally as a student destination. It will also offer training to members.

Sarah Cooper told how English UK nationally was collecting data and lobbying government.

“Our most important message has been: No visas for students post-Brexit, no need to get passports for our junior students post-Brexit,” she said.

She the body was urging the government to take students out of the net migration figures. “You’ll send a positive message to our customers that we want students,” she said.

“We’ve got lots of cabinet members who are really supporting international education but we still have a prime minister who created a hostile environment and that kind of immigration policy.”

Speaking at Bournemouth’s Miramar Hotel, she said English UK had been working together with universities to promote the UK abroad. “What we’ve been pushing really hard is for the rest of the industry to understand how important we are. We’ve been saying to them that those kids’ parents are probably thinking about long term university places,” she said.

“The English language sector is the gateway to the education system.”

She added: “We are part of an industry that does a very, very good thing. We link people from different countries, we enable people to transform their lives and we are proud of being part of an international industry.”

The same day saw the QE Conference, hosted by BEET language school at the town’s International Teaching and Training Centre (ITTC).

The event celebrated 15 years of Quality English, which licenses independent, accredited language schools. BEET is one of its longest-standing licensees.

Representatives from 22 Quality English and Quality Education independent colleges were present. The aim was to bring schools together for round-table discussions about the first 15 years and share ideas for best practice.