Britain’s status as a global powerhouse for education was at risk due to the Government’s hostile immigration policies, Lord Bilimoira told a gathering of politicians, diplomats and student leaders in Parliament to celebrate International Students Day, co-hosted by the London Education And Research Network (LEARN) and the All-Party Parliamentary Group for International Students.
The Peer, who co-chairs the APPG and is also the Chancellor of Birmingham University and President of the UK Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA), urged the Government to reverse policies that were driving foreign students towards rival countries, “before it’s too late; otherwise it’s damaging, harmful and economically illiterate”.
A strategy to attract foreign students should include re-instating the two-year post study work visa; taking students out of net migration figures; and “sending out a signal that Britain is an outward-facing nation” he said.
Lord Bilimoria said foreign students contributed £14 billion to the economy directly and indirectly and created 137,000 jobs.
International Students Officer for the National Union of Students (NUS) Mostafa Rajaai said the “constant monitoring by institutions” had negatively affected international students and warned of the “divisive rhetoric that has crept into UK politics”, particularly after the Brexit vote.
Home Secretary Amber Rudd’s suggestion of a two-tier system of universities where students who were not applying to top British universities could face even more rigorous checks might prove “the final nail in the coffin for international students,” he cautioned.
Minister Jo Johnson also addressed the reception and said despite these difficulties there was “no where better in the world to study than the UK” which had four out of the top 10 universities in the world. He appealed to the students and diplomats to spread the word that there was no cap on the number of international students and no limit on the number who could switch into work provided they secured a graduate job.
APPG co-Chair Paul Blomfield MP, who represents Sheffield which has a large student body said his constituency valued foreign students and how they enriched life on campus.
He also pointed out that 55 world leaders from 51 countries were educated at UK universities. “We are immensely positive about the relationships that are built between our nations because of that.”