Britain’s most prominent business leaders — including Indian-origin Karan Bilimoria of Cobra Beer — today appealed to the Prime Minister, Mr David Cameron, to remove foreign students from official immigration figures to avoid choking off a valuable source of wealth and skills.

In a letter published in The Sunday Times, the 37 business leaders warn that visa restrictions designed to bring net immigration below 100,000 a year will deter wealthy foreigners from outside the European Union.

Among those calling on Mr Cameron to reverse the policy are Sir Martin Sorrell, Chief Executive of WPP; Lord Jones, former director—general of the Confederation of British Industry and trade minister; and Lord Bilimoria, the Cobra beer co-founder who came to Britain as a student.

The leaders say in the letter that Britain needs “to be able to attract the best minds from around the world” and that the country needs “to send a clear message that genuine international students are welcome to study in the UK.”

“They are integral to the success of British business and we must do everything we can to ensure their future contribution is not compromised.”

In an editorial titled ‘Britain needs the world’s best brains’, The Sunday Times supported the business leaders and said: “Our universities have long been a magnet for the brightest and best students from around the world.

“Their talents enrich our universities intellectually and through their fees they also help the universities to balance their books. For many higher education institutions, the fee income from foreign students has been a lifeline in tough times.”

(This article was published on July 22, 2012)
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