UEA leaders among opponents of non-EU student crackdown

Representatives of the University of East Anglia were among dozens of academics to sign a letter warning of the damage the government's immigration crackdown on foreign students could have.

Plans to limit the net immigration figures for non-EU residents coming to Britain are set to include international students hoping to complete pre-university, under-graduate and post-graduate courses.

Last night, Edward Acton, vice-chancellor of the UEA, revealed the signatures from the Norwich university's late chancellor Sir Brandon Gough and chair of council Richard Jewson were included on a letter to David Cameron objecting to the cap.

'You could say we signed with both hands,' said Prof Acton, who has spoken out on the issue before.

The government has pledged to cut net immigration – the difference between the number of people arriving in the country and the number leaving – to fewer than 100,000. With the latest figures showing the figure remains at 250,000, critics say it will not be possible to reach that target without hitting access for international students.

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Prof Acton, who condemned the 'folly' of the government's immigration policy at a graduation ceremony for City College's higher education students last autumn, yesterday added: 'There's been a wonderful picture over the last two decades of Britain attracting a very health share of what is a growing market. More and more students are going abroad for education. Their favourite is America, but their second favourite is this little island.

'The government is insisting on treating students as immigrants even though their visas expire after their degree and they are extraordinarily compliant with visas.'

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The letter has been signed by about 70 chancellors, governors and university presidents, including former Liberal Democrat leader and St Andrews University chancellor Menzies Campbell, Baroness Bottomley, the chancellor of Hull University, and broadcaster and chancellor of the University of Leeds Lord Melvyn Bragg.

It warns that the British economy stands to lose up to �8bn a year in tuition fees and other investment if the crackdown continues to include foreign students.

And that figure could rise to about �17bn by 2025.

Universities UK, which has circulated the letter, said the policy could drive students to other countries.

But the government has defended its plans, insisting the measures are aimed at driving out 'bogus' colleges that act as a way to help immigrants into the country and would not harm genuine overseas students.

Immigration minister Damian Green said: 'There is no limit on the number of genuine students who can come to the UK and our reforms are not stopping them.

'But we are determined to prevent the abuse of student visas as part of our plans to get net migration down to the tens of thousands.

'Students coming to the UK for over a year are not visitors – numbers affect communities, public services and infrastructure.'


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