Britain is gaining a reputation as a country where overseas students are not welcome, because of the Government’s hostile approach to UK immigration, according to Cambridge University’s vice-chancellor.
Prof Leszek Borysiewicz, who is the son of Polish refugees, said that although applications to Cambridge have not fallen, there was an increasingly feeling, particularly in India, that foreign students are not wanted. Figures show that applications to UK universities from Indian students dropped by 38 per cent in 2011/12, while there was a 62 per cent fall in Pakistani applications.
Prof Borysiewicz told The Guardian: "When I think of how my parents were welcomed to this country, I find that actually quite saddening. I do feel we are an open, democratic country and we should be setting the standards for the rest of the world, not hindering them."
He said the UK should recognise the benefit that people from other cultures can bring to the country and pointed out that children of immigrant parents are among those who value education the most. Prof Borysiewicz said he “abhorred” efforts to set strict targets to cut migration figures, which the Government is aiming to reduce to 100,000 annually.
Prof Borysiewicz was born in Wales and did not speak English until he went to school.
However, he said his parents had made it very clear that the family’s future lay in Britain, where they arrived after the Second World War. He said that Polish families currently migrating to the UK held similar views and were making efforts to lay down roots and establish themselves in British society.
"One of Britain's greatest strengths has been in the way it has assimilated so many different communities, and we are a very plural and open society," he added.