Tighter visa controls risk losing engineers and firms, says Dyson
Tougher measures aimed at restricting the amount of time foreign graduates can stay in Britain on student visas could force more companies to go abroad, one of David Cameron's business gurus has warned.
Vacuum cleaner tycoon Sir James Dyson, who sits on the Prime Minister's business advisory group, said he was "extremely concerned" at recent changes which will cut the number of non-EU students in the country.
Last week Home Secretary Theresa May unveiled plans that could cut the number of foreign students and their dependants coming to Britain by around 100,000 a year.
She announced tighter restrictions on how long students could stay in the UK, before and after the end of their courses – including a rule that they must find a job that pays at least £20,000 a year. Mrs May said: "We will limit the overall time that can be spent on a student visa to three years at lower levels, as now, and five years at higher levels."
But Sir James, who also headed an innovation taskforce for Mr Cameron, said it was "sheer madness" to be "effectively chucking out" skilled engineering graduates from the UK.
He told BBC Radio 4's The World this Weekend: "I am extremely concerned because already England is under-producing the numbers of engineers it needs by 50 per cent. There are 37,000 vacancies a year and about 20,000 graduates. So already it is very, very difficult to find engineers.
"It is sheer madness to be effectively chucking out graduates who we desperately need. I am afraid what it will end up doing is driving firms like us abroad because we simply can't get people to do our research and development."
Sir James said the Government had "done some of the right things" in the Budget to encourage research and development but on visas he said: "Think again on engineering, I don't know about people learning English and that sort of thing, but when it comes to technology give them the visas and keep them here."
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