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International students should be ‘visitors’ not ‘immigrants’

In a letter to the Telegraph, organised by London First, business leaders have called for the government to classify international students as temporary visitors, to prevent them being caught up in the debate about immigration targets.

The move was part of London First’s ongoing work to convince the government of the intellectual, cultural, and economic benefits international students offer the UK.

Recent research from London First and PwC shows international students are a boon to the UK, bringing a net benefit of £2.3 billion to the UK economy from London universities alone.  This well and truly busts the myth that international students are a burden on public services, such as the NHS.

The report, London Calling: International students’ contribution to Britain’s economic growth, concludes that the capital’s higher education system is an export success story, with 92 per cent of overseas students saying they would recommend studying in the UK to their friends and family.

Moreover, 60 per cent also said that they are more likely to do business with the UK as a result of studying here.

The letter and signatories in full:

SIR – This week’s visit of Narendra Modi, the Indian prime minister, to Britain provides an opportunity to address an anomaly in our immigration system. Indian students studying here are, like all students from outside the EU, included in net migration figures. This drives the Government to restrict numbers and adds to the bureaucracy for incoming students.

The number of Indian students in Britain was halved between 2011 and 2014, while competitors such as America and Australia have increased the numbers they attract. We should classify international students as temporary visitors, preventing them being caught up in debates about immigration targets.

Britain’s economy benefits from the country welcoming international students in two ways. First, British-educated graduates around the world look fondly on Britain as a vital trading partner. Secondly, foreign graduates educated here can help to fill skills shortages in Britain.

For this reason we also urge the Government to re-establish the post-study work visa, which allowed graduates of British universities to work in Britain for two years.

John Allan, Chairman, London First
Ian Powell, Chairman and Senior Partner, PwC
Kevin Smith, Senior Partner, Head Of London Region, KPMG
Craig Calhoun, Director, London School of Economics
Des Gunewardena, Chairman and CEO, D&D London
Michael Arthur, President and Provost, UCL
Richard Simpson, Managing Director, Property, The Unite Group
Paul Curran, Vice Chancellor, City University
John Raftery, Vice Chancellor, London Metropolitan University
Mark Boleat, Chairman of the Policy and Resources Committee, City of London
Harold Paisner, Senior Partner Emeritus, Berwin Leighton Paisner
Paul Thompson, Rector, Royal College of Art
Tim Clement-Jones, London Managing Partner, DLA Piper
Edward Byrne, Principal, King’s College London
Barrie Hadfield, Chief Technology Officer, Workshare
Molly Jackson, Board Member, London First and Governor, Lincoln University

Contact: Mark Hilton,

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