Boris Johnson takes a swing at 'alarmist' student visa policy

Mayor of London uses Delhi trip to warn that foreign universities could 'eat Britain's lunch'

Delhi

Boris Johnson has launched a spirited  attack on Government immigration policy, claiming ministers were causing “unnecessary alarm” with tough rules which could deter foreign students from coming to the UK.

The Mayor, on the second day of a trade mission to India, warned that the “mood music” on visa restrictions could seriously damage many UK  universities, which rely on foreign  students for survival.

At Amity University in Delhi, Mr Johnson said: “The policy on visas has been sending out the wrong signals. The worry is they have been a little bit put off by some of the mood music coming out of the Government. You’ve got to be very careful that you’re not doing stuff that actually deters foreign students.

“India has a glorious tradition of sending students to London, from Nehru to Ghandi onwards, and we want to make sure we preserve that. I don’t want to see universities in Canada and America and Australia eating our lunch. We shouldn’t be losing this market.

“If the Government decides to make changes to the visa regime, we want to make sure it doesn’t do damage to a sector in which London is so strong.”

International students brought £2.5bn into the UK last year in fees alone but since tough restrictions – including a cap on numbers and minimum-income criteria – were announced last year, there has been a 9 per cent fall, with a 25 per cent drop expected next year.

In a letter to Home Secretary Theresa May, he said it was “imperative” ministers stopped focusing on numerical targets and instead concentrated on promoting jobs and growth.

“This is why I am supporting a growing, cross-party consensus on removing students from the Government’s net migration target,” he added.

It is not the first time Mr Johnson has been at odds with the Government about immigration policy. He has previously challenged Tory orthodoxy by calling for an amnesty on illegal immigrants in the capital. Mr Johnson has also written to the Business Secretary, Vince Cable, urging him to set up an educational experts commission to promote British universities abroad.

With half of India’s 1.2bn population aged under 25, Mr Johnson said the subcontinent offered massive opportunities for British universities.

The Mayor denied he was making any “political calculations”, insisting he simply wanted to make sure higher education was not an “accidental victim” of policy. However, Foreign Office insiders suggested he could be “shooting himself in the foot” as the Indian media was likely to pick up on his warnings, leading to an even greater drop-off.

Mr Johnson managed to squeeze in a game of cricket. At the same time as England completed a stunning 10-wicket demolition of India on the other side of the country in Mumbai, he took to the crease carrying a plastic bat on the lawn of the British High Commission.  His opponents were 11-year-olds but the Mayor hit one ball into the assembled media and another disappeared in the direction of the swimming pool.

He will meet the English cricket team  at a drinks party in Mumbai later this week. Despite having two election successes behind him, he may yet ask Alastair Cook’s men for tips on winning national victories at home.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Contact Centre Advisor

£19500 - £21500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading children's chariti...

Recruitment Genius: Client Services Assistant

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Client Services Assistant is ...

Recruitment Genius: Junior / Senior Sales Broker - OTE £100,000

£20000 - £100000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportuni...

Recruitment Genius: Duty Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Duty Manager is required to join one of the ...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor