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
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
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: Sales Executive - OTE £30,000+

£16000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are looking for individual...

Recruitment Genius: IT Project Coordinator / Manager

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Project Coordinator is requir...

Recruitment Genius: Mortgage Advisor - OTE £95,000

£40000 - £95000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Vehicle Inspectors / Purchasers

£20000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Trainee Vehicle Inspectors / Pu...

Day In a Page

Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

Heavy weather

What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

World Bodypainting Festival 2015

Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

Don't call us nerds

Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high
How to find gold: The Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge

How to find gold

Steve Boggan finds himself in the Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge
Singing accents: From Herman's Hermits and David Bowie to Alesha Dixon

Not born in the USA

Lay off Alesha Dixon: songs sound better in US accents, even our national anthem
10 best balsamic vinegars

10 best balsamic vinegars

Drizzle it over salad, enjoy it with ciabatta, marinate vegetables, or use it to add depth to a sauce - this versatile staple is a cook's best friend
Wimbledon 2015: Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

Serena dispatched her elder sister 6-4, 6-3 in eight minutes more than an hour
Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

Greece referendum

Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

7/7 bombings anniversary

Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?
Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has created

Versace haute couture review

Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has ever created
No hope and no jobs, so Gaza's young risk their lives, climb the fence and run for it

No hope and no jobs in Gaza

So the young risk their lives and run for it
Fashion apps: Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers

Fashion apps

Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers
The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy