Foreign students should be excluded from the government’s target for cutting non-EU immigration, the former Deputy Prime Minister Michael Heseltine has urged.
Students are not seen by the public as part of the “immigration problem,” and restricting their numbers may cause unnecessary damage to the UK’s reputation abroad, he told the BBC.
After graduating, the students return to their home countries where many are likely “ambassadors” spreading goodwill towards the UK.
“There are very large numbers of students in this country - in our universities, in our business schools - who are a great asset financially and educationally. The public do not see students who come and go as part of the immigration problem,” Lord Heseltine said.
His remarks were supported by Labour’s shadow business secretary, Chuka Umunna. “Government immigration policy and rhetoric has already done immense damage to higher education - one of the UK’s biggest exports worth over £10 billion a year,” he said.
The government has had to concede that it is unlikely to meet a target set by David Cameron to reduce net immigration below 100,00 a year by 2015. Last year’s total was 212,000. But the Home Office insisted yesterday that officials have clamped down on bogus students without harming the intake of those who genuinely want to study.