London: Expressing concern over the decline in the number of Indian students coming to study in UK universities, leading NRI entrepreneur Lord Karan Bilimoria has asked the British government to remove students from the immigration figures and reintroduce the post-study work visa.
Participating in a debate on the Immigration Bill in the House of Lords, Lord Bilimoria said, "The prime minister (David Cameron) talks about Britain having to take part in a global race yet the government's insistence is on following this madcap immigration cap policy and targeting bringing down the immigration level to the tens of thousands. This is shooting ourselves in the foot."
He recommended that, "First, student figures should be removed from the immigration figures to send out a clear message that we do not include them in the government's madcap immigration cap target. Secondly, a system in which everyone's passports will be scanned in and out of the country, at all ports of entry, should be introduced as soon as possible and the government should bring back the post-student work visa."
"What are the government thinking of? Why do the government keep including student numbers in the immigration figures when Canada, Australia and the United States - our immediate competitors - do not? The prime minister has said that there is no limit to the number of students that we want to come to study in the United Kingdom."
He noted that the number of "Indian students coming to the UK has fallen by 25 per cent and the overall non-EU enrolment of overseas students has dropped from 173,560 to 171,910. The government are sending out a negative message: that Britain does not want foreign students."
Lord Bilimoria was also critical of the additional National Health Service charge of 150 pounds per year per student proposed to be introduced.
"The proposed NHS fees are unwelcoming. As a former foreign student in this country, I know how expensive it is to study here. The average international student will spend something in the region of 75,000 pounds during a three-year degree programme."
The Indian-origin peer said, "The Russell group has reported that the intakes of postgraduate students from India at its institutions dropped by 21 per cent in 2011-12, with a further drop of 18 per cent in 2012-13."
"Visas granted to Indian students across all levels in Australia have risen by 22 per cent in the past year, following the introduction of a more open immigration policy, and visas granted to Indian students in Canada rose by 8 per cent in 2012," Lord Bilimoria said.
According to Business Secretary Vince Cable, around 17 billion pounds are generated each year by universities of which 10 billion pounds come from overseas students through their fees and expenditure.