Business leaders have called for an increase in opportunities for qualified international graduates to remain in the UK following graduation
In an open letter to the Financial Times, senior figures – including John Fallon, CEO of Pearson, Baroness Lane-Fox of Soho and Simon Collins, UK Chairman and Senior Partner of KPMG – also said that there should be more opportunities for qualified international graduates to remain in the UK.
However, currently, foreign students are counted in the immigration figures, meaning they feature in the Conservative's pledge to cut net migration to below 100,000.
This is despite the fact that, according to Universities UK, international students contribute £7 billion a year to the UK economy.
The letter says: "Many of the world’s brightest minds and entrepreneurs have studied at our universities in recent years — for example, the third of Nobel laureates since 2000 working in UK universities who were born overseas.
"We do not want to lose these talented people to our competitor economies as a result of ill-thought-out immigration policies."
Last month, Theresa May, the Home Secretary, warned that foreign student numbers could hit 600,000 by 2020s. However, her plans to expel international students after graduation, were reportedly quashed by George Osborne following criticism by business leaders.
In an article for The Guardian, Sir James Dyson, the inventor, wrote: “Theresa May’s latest ploy to swing voters concerned about immigration magnifies my worry: she wants to exile foreign students upon qualification from British universities.
"Train ’em up, kick ’em out – it’s a bit short-sighted, isn’t it? A short-term vote winner that leads to long-term economic decline.”
Commenting on the letter, Nicola Dandridge, Chief Executive of Universities UK, said: “We agree that, if the UK is to remain internationally competitive, it should be looking to broaden, not limit, efforts to attract qualified international students and graduates.
“Competitor countries are increasingly introducing a range of strategies to attract overseas students and graduates, recognising the value to their economies and countries.
“Short-term post-study work opportunities for skilled international graduates are important in helping to fill specific skills gaps and ensuring that UK businesses and other organisations remain globally competitive."