A leading academic has spoken out about how restricting foreign students' post-study work opportunities was a "mistake", as overseas students are "key" to economic success.
Professor Colin Bailey, deputy vice chancellor of the University of Chester">ManChester, has said that international students should be excluded from government net migration targets, as they contribute key funding towards research and science as well as supporting the local economy.
According to Universities UK, higher education institutions currently achieve around one-eighth of their income from international students' tuition fees, and these students contribute around £7 billion a year to the economy.
Professor Bailey's arguments follow warnings from prominent business leaders, in an open letter to the Financial Times, that the UK is at risk of losing "talented people to competitor economies as a result of ill-thought-out immigration policies."
Many also believe that welcoming foreign undergraduate and post graduate students is crucial to enhancing the reputation of UK higher education across the globe. Last April, a study from the Government's Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) found that the number of foreign students being recruited to English universities had actually dropped for the first time in thirty years.
Furthermore, according to Universities UK, the number of overseas entrants to STEM courses has fallen by 10 per cent, with postgraduate taught courses being particularly affected.
Professor Bailey warned that the perceived message that "international students weren't welcome" had damaged the image of the UK as a desirable destination. The raising of tuition fees, as well as stricter student visa rules, has also meant that a lot of international students are choosing to go to Australia or America instead.
Currently, international graduates are able to remain in the UK for an additional four months after completing their studies, whereas previously they were allowed two years - a change that Professor Bailey, as well as many others, warns is a grave 'mistake.'