The restrictions imposed on student visas by the David Cameron government may prevent the next generation of world leaders such as Manmohan Singh,Benazir Bhutto or Bill Clinton from coming to Britain to study,the head of a leading think-tank today said.
Criticising the Cameron government for restrictions on student visas,the influential Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR) said in a report that students from India and other non-EU countries should not be categorised as immigrants since most of them leave the country after studies.
Nick Pearce,director of IPPR,told PTI: “Will the next generation of world leaders,like Manmohan Singh,Benazir Bhutto or Bill Clinton,be educated in the UK if the UK Government restrict the flow of students to the UK’s world-class universities?”
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh studied at Cambridge and Oxford,while late Pakistan Premier Bhutto and ex-US President Clinton were educated at Oxford.
He added: “International students take friendships and loyalties home with them that later become trade links,cultural bonds and diplomatic ties. The UK cannot afford to lose touch with the next generation of opinion-formers,restrict understanding of the British worldview or allow the UK to recede as a cultural reference point.”
Several organisations,including the British Council and the Universities UK,have urged the government to reconsider the restrictions that were likely to reduce the number of Indian students coming to the UK from the next academic year,starting September.
The IPPR report,titled ‘International Students and Net Migration in the UK’,said the curbs on student visas was damaging British universities and colleges,the country’s economy as well as Britain’s international standing.
The report said: “(The) decisive reason why the UK government is sticking with the current method of measuring student migration flows is not a genuine concern with long-term net migration but a desire to ‘game’ its own net migration target by banking large apparent reductions in 2013 and 2014 which reflect the limitations of the current method of measurement rather than real changes in long-term net migration trends”.
Noting instances of abuse of the student visa regime,the report said the government was right in taking action in this area,”but cutting down on abuse of the system and cutting down on numbers are fundamentally different objectives”,it said.
The report added: “(The) government needs to take international students out of the immigration ‘numbers game’,which is damaging our universities and colleges,our economy and our international standing.
This would enable the government to move back to a policy that supports rather than penalises one of our most important industries and sources of future growth and global influence – without in any way hampering its stated objective of controlling long-term net migration”.
The Cameron government has committed itself to reducing net migration from outside the EU from the current levels of 250,000 to ‘tens of thousands’,and has put in place changes for students as well as other categories of migration.