The UK could lose much of the international influence it currently enjoys if it further restricts overseas student visas, according to a new report.
The Higher Education Policy Institute said that 55 world leaders, including royalty, presidents and prime ministers in 51 countries, have benefitted from a UK university education.
The Institute’s director, Nick Hillman, a former higher education special advisor to the Government, said the UK can “punch above our weight internationally” partly because the country has educated so many world leaders.
He said: “It is staggering that 55 world leaders should have studied in a country of the UK’s size, yet we benefit enormously from the fact that they did.
“The competition for international students is much fiercer than it used to be and we risk being left behind. As the declining number of students coming to the UK from places like India makes clear, we are currently damaging our links to parts of the world with which the UK’s history has long been intertwined.”
He warned that tighter restrictions on the number of international students coming to the UK could cost the country economic and other benefits in the longer term.
The most popular UK university among current foreign leaders was Manchester, which educated 10 of those on the list, followed by nine who studied at Oxford, and seven at the Sandhurst Military Academy and London colleges. Four studied at Cambridge and three at the London School of Economics.
They include Danish Queen Margrethe II, new Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Kosovan President Atifete Jahjaga.
Only the US attracts more international students than the UK every year. But the Government is currently targeting overseas student numbers as part of its efforts to cut the net migration figure.