Karan Bilimoria, who arrived as a student from India in the 1980s, went on to establish a successful beer brand and now sits in the House of Lords, has criticised the David Cameron government’s student visa policy that, he believes, is “creating a rod for their own back”.
One of the key speakers in a debate on student immigration, Bilimoria demanded that the government remove students from immigration figures – as in the US, Canada and Australia – since most of them leave after their studies. Excluding students from overall immigration statistics has been a major demand by the higher education sector. Cameron and chancellor George Osborne are said to be open to the idea, but reportedly face opposition from Home secretary Theresa May.
There has been a major fall in the number of Indian students coming to UK universities in recent years. Closing the post-study work visa in 2012 was “hugely damaging”, Bilimoria said. The Cameron government has been at pains to attract India students, saying there is no cap on the numbers.
He said: “Suu Kyi, Bill Clinton, Desmond Tutu and Mahatma Gandhi all studied at UK universities...(Yet) the government continue to classify international students as immigrants when calculating the net immigration figures, as well as having a target to reduce net immigration to fewer than 100,000”.
“Then, hypocritically, the government say that there are no limits to international students. Logically, there is no way the government will meet their targets unless they reduce international student numbers…The government are unnecessarily creating a rod for their own back”, he added.
Several members of the House of Lords pressed the government to exclude students from immigration figures, but did not get any assurance, partly because figures suggested that a large number of students did not return to their home countries after their courses.