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Politics Amp Policy
Plan to expel non-EU graduates attacked
From the Financial Times of Sun, 21 Dec 2014 18:33:26 GMT
CAMBRIDGE, UNITED KINGDOM - MARCH 13: A student walks through St John's College on March 13, 2012 in Cambridge, England. Cambridge has a student population in excess of 22,000 spread over 31 different independent Colleges across the city. The city is home to several famous University's, including The University of Cambridge, which was founded in 1209, and is ranked one of the top five universities in the world, King's College Chapel, and Trinity College. Famous alumni have included the likes of Charles Darwin, Isaac Newton, Samuel Pepys and David Attenborough. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)©Getty

Leading universities have criticised plans being promoted by the UK home secretary that would force students from outside the EU to leave the country at the end of their courses.

Higher education chiefs spoke out on Sunday after aides to Theresa May said she wanted to make non-EU students leave Britain and apply for a visa from abroad if they wanted to work in the UK after finishing their studies.

Nicola Dandridge, chief executive of Universities UK, said: “Clamping down on genuine international students will not only damage our universities, but will also damage our economy.

“If the UK is to remain internationally competitive, it should be looking to broaden, not limit, the opportunities for qualified international graduates to stay in the UK to work for a period and contribute to the economy.”

Allies of Ms May told the Sunday Times that the home secretary wanted the proposals to be included in the Conservative manifesto for next year’s election. They have no chance of being enacted by this government as the Liberal Democrats are opposed.

One official said: “Making sure immigrants leave Britain at the end of their visa is as important a part of running a fair and efficient immigration system as controlling who comes here in the first place.”

A Tory spokesman would not comment on whether the proposal was likely to be included in next year’s manifesto.

But the plans were criticised by a range of political and higher education figures, who said they risked damaging Britain’s economy and skills base.

Wendy Piatt, director-general of the Russell Group of top research universities, said: “If we are to maintain our place as a global leader in higher education then the UK must continue to attract the very best talent from around the world and show that its doors are open to genuine international students.

“The welcome that students and potential students receive from the UK is critical to our ability to grow this important part of the economy. We would be very concerned about any changes which deterred talented, genuine students from coming to the UK.”

Yvette Cooper, Labour’s shadow home secretary, said: “More does need to be done to stop people overstaying illegally when their visas run out . . . But the answer to that isn’t to prevent highly skilled overseas graduates getting legal work-visas to fill shortages in fields like science or medicine here.”

According to the Office for National Statistics, 121,000 non-EU students entered the UK in the year to June, 70,000 of whom remained after their courses ended. Government figures suggest those numbers were likely to rise by 6 per cent a year until 2020.

The government also calculates that international students contribute about £10bn a year to the British economy, based on 2011 figures.

Ms May has garnered support among Conservative voters for her tough line on immigration, despite the fact she has failed to meet her target of bringing net migration below 100,000 people a year.

Her popularity among Tory members has fuelled claims she wants to succeed David Cameron as party leader, something that has created tension between her supporters and his. Tory high command last week suspended two of Ms May’s advisers from the approved list of candidates to be MPs in 2015, after they were accused of not campaigning for the party during the Rochester by-election.

The Tories have been particularly keen to reduce migration as support for the anti-immigration UK Independence party has risen. Ukip is on about 15 per cent in the polls and could draw enough voters away from the Conservatives to deny the party victory at the general election in May.

This particular policy could prove less popular than other measures, however. A poll for British Future, a think-tank looking at migration and identity, showed 59 per cent of voters thought the government should not try to reduce the numbers of international students. Three-quarters said they should be allowed to stay in the UK, at least for some time, after finishing their studies.

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