Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham has joined other mayors from across the UK in calling for the government to make it simpler and more attractive for international students to study in Britain.
In an open letter printed in the Financial Times, Mr Burnham and six other mayors representing London, the West Midlands, Liverpool City Region, West of England, Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, and the Tees Valley, highlighted the positive impact international students have on the UK.
According to research carried out by the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI), international students supported more than 200,000 jobs across Britain in 2014-15 and have a net economic benefit to the economy in excess of £20bn.
Greater Manchester alone benefits to the tune of £852m.
The letter said: “As the UK prepares to leave the EU, it is important that any future immigration system acknowledges the vital contribution international students make to regional jobs and growth. This includes sending a more open and welcoming message to international students, and improving post-study work opportunities for qualified international graduates in the UK to work and contribute to our regional economies.”
The mayors also focussed on the positive cultural impact overseas students can have while studying in the UK.
They added: “These students also enrich our university campuses and the experience of UK students. Many students return home having built strong professional and personal links that benefit our regions, and the UK as a whole in terms of long-lasting, ‘soft’ diplomatic power.”
The letter does not name any individual countries, but the fall in the number of Indian students coming to the UK to study is sure to be of concern. HEPI data points to a 44 per cent decrease in the last five years.
London’s mayor Sadiq Khan voiced his concerns during a visit to India at the end of last year. During a speech in Mumbai he called for “a fair, flexible immigration system that allows us to attract talented people – with fewer barriers and less red tape”.
Mr Khan proposed the creation of a new post-study work visa for international students, stating that the government’s decision to change the rules had led to “a substantial drop in Indian students coming to our universities”.
The seven mayors are also set to write to the chair of the Migration Advisory Committee, an independent public body that advises the government on migration issues.
Inset: Andy Burnham ©GMCA