Boris Johnson, the mayor of London, has suggested that restricting UK visas for students is sending the “wrong signal” to overseas students.
Speaking on a trade trip to India, Mr Johnson stated that Britain should be stretching out its hands to welcome foreign students rather than deterring them.
One of the main deterrents at the moment is the rule that prevents students from staying in the country after graduation unless they get a job paying at least £20,000. This measure was introduced as part of the government's plan to lower the number of immigrants to the tens of thousands by the end of parliament.
However, Mr Johnson has highlighted the potentially negative side effect of this approach: “The policy on visas is, in my view, sending the wrong signal. There are so many stipulations that we are starting to lose business to Australia, American and Canada.
“The extra stipulations, such as the need to have a salary of up to a certain amount before you are allowed to stay on mean we need to be very careful that we are not doing stuff that actively deters foreign students and at the moment the policy seems to put people off.”
The mayor added that Britain has a “strong” reputation for attracting students from countries around the world, noting that the business that they bring in in the form of fees – around £2.5 billion a year – help to pay for university places for UK students.
According to figures from the Higher Education Agency, Indian provides the second highest percentage of overseas students with almost 40,000 in higher education in the UK in the 2010-11 academic year. Chinese students were the highest percentage of all at over 67,000.