Would easing student visa rules be enough to attract the best and brightest to Britain?

Wendy Piatt

Boris Johnson is right: students should be removed from net migration targets. International students are worth billions to London’s economy through their tuition fees and living expenditure alone. Their contribution to the capital’s intellectual and cultural life is priceless. Russell Group universities like Imperial, King’s, LSE, UCL and Queen Mary are world-class because of their openness to new ideas, students and academics, wherever they come from. London’s financial services industry, hi-tech start-ups and scientific innovators all benefit immensely from them. The government is right to crack down on abuses of the visa system but it is really important not to put off tomorrow’s global leaders from studying and working here. As Boris Johnson says, it would be “crazy” to allow India’s best and brightest to choose American and Australian universities over our own.

Dr Wendy Piatt is director general of the Russell Group.


Sam Bowman

Focusing exclusively on attracting foreign students is not enough. Any kind of cap on immigration is crazy. Just as with international trade, more people means more specialisation, which means more wealth overall. Immigration brings new ideas, skills and workers that all help grow the economy. A 2006 study found that 50 per cent of Silicon Valley engineering and tech start-ups were started by immigrants. Immigrants entering the British workforce do not create unemployment any more than women joining in the 1950s did. And far from being a burden on the welfare state, immigrants pay more in taxes overall than they use in government services. Indeed, Britain’s pensions time-bomb can only be addressed by a combination of privatisation and allowing more immigrants in to support our elderly population. London’s status as a global city is based on its openness to new workers. We’d be mad to change that now.

Sam Bowman is policy director at the Adam Smith Institute.