Mayor Boris Johnson has warned London must remain open to overseas students or risk driving “the global leaders of the future” to the UK’s international competitors.
The Mayor is currently visiting India as part of a trade mission to promote the capital both as a place to do business and world-leading educational centre. City Hall says he is concerned UK Government restrictions on student visas may be denting the capital’s attractiveness to overseas students.
Mr Johnson has called on Ministers to remove students from the UK’s cap on migration numbers and introduce new measures “to better protect genuine students if sponsors lose their licences.”
In a statement Mayor Johnson said: “As Mayor I will do all I can to promote London as a place that is open for business and open to the brightest talent in the world. International students not only bring bright ideas that cement the reputations of our leading universities, they have huge spending power that boosts the UK economy.
“The Government is right not to open the door to those who will simply be a drain on the state, but it’s crazy that we should be losing India’s top talent and the global leaders of the future to Australia and the United States.”
During his five-day visit the Mayor will meet senior politicians, business leaders and investors.
He has already met Honourable Mrs Sheila Dikshit, the Chief Minster of Delhi NCT (National Capital Territory) and members of her cabinet.
During the meeting the Mayor discussed options to finance Delhi’s infrastructure investments through closer co-operation with the City of London and London-based financiers.
City Hall’s Labour group say the Mayor’s visit proves he was wrong to close overseas offices opened by former Mayor Ken Livingstone.
The offices, set up to promote the capital, were closed during Mayor Johnson’s first term after a review questioned their cost-effectiveness.
Last week Len Duvall, Labour’s leader on the London Assembly, said: “After strongly attacking Ken Livingstone for visiting India and setting up trade offices it looks like Boris has finally realised that we do need a closer relationship with India.
“It’s a real shame that the Mayor shut down London’s trade offices in India when he first got elected and has wasted the years since. Let’s hope this is the start of a concerted effort by Boris to increase investment and isn’t just an attempt to make him look like a Prime-Minister in waiting.”