Professor Andrew Hamilton, the vice-chancellor of Oxford University, has told an audience of academics that he is baffled by the UK's policy on student visas. Professor Hamilton said that when he travelled abroad,said that he was often questioned on why the UK has adopted a visa system so hostile to student entry. Although he himself was baffled, he did his best to answer the question.
The vice-chancellor of Oxford University has told an audience of academics that the UK's policy on student visas is baffling.
One question persists when he travels abroad, Professor Andrew Hamilton: "why has the UK adopted a visa system so hostile to student entry?" "I do my best to answer" he said "but, frankly, the question baffles me as well."
The Home Office responded saying that there are no facts to support the idea the visa system deterred international students.
Prof Hamilton however said thata the policy of limiting international student numbers was in fact now harming the UK. He said: "For the first time in decades, the number of international students at our universities has dropped, most markedly from India."
"Why are we doing this to them - and to ourselves?"
The ability of UK universities to recruit economically valuable international students has been harmed by the government's policy of tightening up the student visa system.
Prof Hamilton used his annual address to the university to urge political parties to end student migrant targets. He further urged the government to use research-based evidence in forming election policies, particularly on immigration.
He cited recent research by Oxford's Migration Observatory. He argued that it showed the public did not link overseas student numbers with immigration issues.
Professor Hamilton said: "Study is the least frequent answer given when the public are asked what they consider the motives for migration to be." "Student migration simply isn't an issue for them and there are few votes in restricting overseas student numbers." "There are signs that this reality is beginning to dawn across the political spectrum - something to be welcomed and encouraged ahead of the election."
University research could help shed light on "complex political and policy challenges" he added. Furthermore it could "defy the temptation to reach for simple or simplistic answers". "In essence, we can provide the data, the understanding and the analysis to underpin arguments and the possible solutions for the problems we all face," he said.
Higher education brought huge public recognition to the UK said Professor Hamilton - "sadly benefit which far outstrips the level of public investment in our sector".
UK public investment in higher education stood at 0.9% of gross domestic product (GDP) - "one of the lowest in Europe" he noted. Professor Hamilton urged politicians to come up with "properly developed policies on higher education". He said that this would benefit not only students and universities, but would also be "hugely beneficial to the public good".
There had been "significant increases in students from countries such as China, Brazil and Malaysia" according to a Home Office spokesman.
"The UK is open to the brightest and best and we have been very clear that there is no limit on the number of international students who can study in the UK." "Whilst the government has not shied away from taking tough action on abuse, we continue to welcome genuine students to our world-class universities." "The UK remains the second most popular destination for international higher education students, after the USA, with latest figures showing a rise of 5% for university visa applications and an 8% increase for Russell Group universities."