London Mayor calls for Commonwealth student visa

23 Sep 2015 | Posted by Carl Thomas

London Mayor Boris Johnson is calling on his brother, the Higher Education Minister Jo Johnson, to back a new visa for Commonwealth students.

Boris Johnson is concerned about the sharp decline in the number of international students applying to study in the UK due to tougher immigration policies. He is worried that British universities will lose out to those in Australia, the US and Canada.

The London Mayor is backing proposals for a new UK visa to allow international students from Commonwealth countries to remain in the UK to work after completing their studies. New rules mean that unless a non-EU student finds work within four months of finishing their degree and that the job pays at least £20,800, they must leave the UK. Further action to toughen up of the rules is also in the pipeline.

Since 2010/11, the number of Indian students studying in the UK has almost halved from just over 39,000 to just under 20,000 in 2013/14. Boris Johnson has already raised the issue while visiting India and has now written to his brother to suggest a Commonwealth post-study work visa, the Financial Times reported. Jo Johnson is due to discuss the issue with his brother and Immigration Minister James Brokenshire this month.

Home Secretary Theresa May is targeting overseas students remaining in the UK to work as part of her efforts to reduce net migration. Among her proposals is introducing a minimum savings level for non-EU students applying to study in Britain.

Indian-born crossbench peer, Lord Bilimoria, the chancellor of Birmingham university, criticised the Home Secretary’s approach as “economically illiterate”.

He said: “We should be setting targets to increase the number of international students year by year to our universities. Instead we’re sending exactly the opposite message.”