Sajid Javid is not on the right wing of the Conservative party for nothing. The business secretary, who also has universities in his remit, wants international students to leave the country once they’re done studying, a policy which is losing the UK some of the best, brightest graduates.
He said we should welcome international students to study in ‘our world-class universities’. And just as well – they’re worth almost £7bn a year to the UK economy. But he also trotted out the hackneyed old line about stopping ‘abuse, where people are using the right to study as a way to achieve settlement in Britain’
‘It shouldn’t be about settlement,’ Javid told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme this morning. ‘We’ve got to break the link and make sure it’s focused on people who want to study and then, once they’ve had their studies… then they leave.’
The previous government actually did a pretty good job of cracking down on ‘bogus colleges’ that were indeed gaming the system to get people into the country. Javid seems to still be party to the Tory hang-up with immigration, despite the failure to bring net migration (in which students are included) down to Cameron’s promised ‘tens of thousands’. Given the government can't seem to stop migrants clinging to lorries from Calais, bright, British-trained students should be the least of its concerns.
Why would we want to lose intelligent, global-minded graduates we’ve trained up, especially when we’re in need of engineers, software developers, nurses and more? Business leaders including Sir James Dyson have been vocal in criticising the limitations on non-EU students staying on to find jobs after they finish their studies (they currently get four months, but employers still have to sponsor increasingly hard-to-get work visas). It’s also one factor in the drop in Indian students applying to British institutions.
Jo Johnson, brother of Boris, is the universities and science minister under Javid, and has criticised the restrictions on international students in the past. Businesses will be hoping that he can keep a rein on his boss – or even persuade him to loosen the limitations on valuable foreign graduates.