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Boris Johnson warns immigration policy will deter foreign students

London Mayor Boris Johnson is currently in New Delhi: Picture: Stefan Rousseau/PA London Mayor Boris Johnson is currently in New Delhi: Picture: Stefan Rousseau/PA

Monday, November 26, 2012
10:51 AM

London Mayor Boris Johnson is to speak out against government plans to cut down on the number of foreign students entering the UK.

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In front of a group of Indian students in Delhi, he will claim new rules introduced last year by ministers to slash the number of bogus colleges sent out the “wrong signal”, adding that he feared they would hit the £2.5 billion revenue stream British universities earn from overseas students.

The industry played an important part in subsidising domestic undergraduates, the mayor said, as he announced plans to set up an Education Export Commission with central government to examine whether foreign students were now choosing to study in the US, Canada and Australia instead.

Of the 110,000 foreign students in London alone, 9,000 are from India, where Mr Johnson is spending this week trying to build business links with the capital.

He also handed over some copper petals from the spectacular cauldron used during the London 2012 Games. The petals are now being offered to each country as a legacy of their sporting achievements.

Mr Johnson said: “It’s a wonderful honour for me to present these beautiful petals to India as a fitting memento of the achievements of Indian athletes in London this summer.

In interviews ahead of a speech to prospective students at Amity University, the equivalent of Oxford or Cambridge, Mr Johnson added he was worried the “mood music” from Whitehall was putting the very best off applying.

He said: “We are going to set up with government an Education Exports Commission to look at the issue to make sure we get the right message across so that if the government decides to make changes to the visa regime it doesn’t do damage to a sector in which London is so strong and it is so valuable.

“The vast majority of Indian students do get a visa, 75 per cent of them get one pretty much straight off. It’s more of a perception at the moment.

“The policy on visas is, in my view, sending out the wrong signal. There are so many stipulations that we are starting to lose business to Australia, America and Canada.

“As I have written several times to the Home Secretary, we need to see a strong statement of welcome to make sure that the visa system is not a deterrent to international students.

“The extra stipulations such as the need to have a salary of up to a certain amount before you are allowed to stay on mean we need to be very careful that we are not doing stuff that actively deters foreign students and at the moment the policy seems to put people off. Why are we doing this? We shouldn’t be losing this market.”

He added: “It’s a great idea to have a London that is open to that kind of business. I am saying to Government ‘Don’t do things that is going to cause unnecessary alarm and prejudice against the UK’.”

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