Renowned British inventor and entrepreneur Sir James Dyson has criticized the government’s immigration policy on international students, describing it as “short-sighted vote chasing”.
Sir James, the billionaire founder behind the iconic Dyson brand, said Home Secretary Theresa May’s plan to expel international students from the UK once their courses are complete would jeopardize innovation in Britain.
Writing in the Guardian, Sir James said: “Open borders a little too open. Not enough control. Take, take, take. Some of that may well be true. I am not an expert. But I do worry about Britain’s ability to make, make, make. Make engineering breakthroughs. Make scientific progress. And, yes, make money for UK plc.”
Under new plans currently under consideration by Home Secretary Theresa May, students from outside the European Union will be required to return to their home countries before applying for work visas.
‘Out of Country’ applications however, significantly diminish an applicant’s chances and take considerably longer than ‘In Country’ applications.
Sir James said that the strategy was a “short term fix” that would have a detrimental impact on Britain in the long term.
“Theresa May wants to exile foreign students upon qualification from British universities. Train ’em up. Kick ’em out. It’s a bit shortsighted”, he said.
“(It’s) a short-term vote winner that leads to long-term economic decline. Of course the government needs to be seen to be ‘doing something’. But postgraduate research in particular leads to exportable, patentable technology.
“Binning foreign postgraduates is, I suppose, a quick fix. But quick fixes don’t build long-term futures. And that’s exactly what many researchers are doing.”
The Home Secretary’s plan is aimed at helping the government meet its net migration target which it has struggled with in the face of migration from the European Union.
Ms May has been widely criticized for targeting migrants from South Asia, Africa and elsewhere as the UK cannot impose restrictions on EU migrants who make up the vast majority of recent immigrants to the UK.
Sir James said that the move was not a practical solution.
“Bright sparks are drawn to the UK for good reason – our universities are among the best in the world. Particularly for science and engineering. Yet the Home Office wants to say cheerio to these sharp minds as soon as their mortarboards land on college lawns.
“The moment research is finished students are forced back to their homelands, from where the home secretary is happy to allow them to apply for jobs in Britain. Not exactly motivating. Not exactly practical.
“This is an abrupt departure from an equally unworkable idea that after their research they have two months to be employed, otherwise they are ejected. No wonder fewer than 10% bother to try to stay.”
Since new regulations on student visas were introduced in 2010, the number of international students, particularly from India and Pakistan, has seen a dramatic decline.
The advocacy group Universities UK has warned that Ms May’s plans threatened to further entrench perceptions that Britain is an unwelcome place for international students.
“Our borders must remain open to the world’s best. Give them our knowledge, allow them to develop their own and permit them to apply it on our shores.
“Their ideas and inventiveness will create technology to export around the world”, Sir James said.
Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper agreed with Sir James’ sentiments, describing the government’s plans as “muddled”.
“Instead of tackling illegal immigration, problems at border control, or the exploitation of low skilled immigration, they are targeting the highly skilled graduates who bring billions into Britain”, Cooper said.
“Telling all foreign post graduates they have to leave the country immediately even if their top international talent is badly needed by post graduate scientific research centres, the NHS or our world class businesses is counterproductive and will hurt our economy and public services”, she added.