More foreign students should be encouraged by the government to come to the UK. The Government should also make it easier for them to stay on afterwards, says Lord Bilimoria. He said that having access to the brightest and best students in the world will really help our businesses and our economy. Lord Bilimoria was himself a foreign student when he came to the UK to study.
Lord Bilimoria came to study in the UK as a foreign student, before qualifying as a chartered accountant. He later went on to co-found Cobra Beer. He said: "Foreign students have an attitude of wanting to aspire and wanting to achieve so you get bright, motivated and aspirational people. That can only benefit British businesses. There is a skills and talent shortage in this country and here is a way of ensuring that businesses have access to the brightest and the best."
He warned however, that the government risked jeopardising these benefits. He said that in the past couple of years there had been a decline in the number of foreign students coming to the UK. He pointed to the fact that the number of Indian students coming to the UK had declined by 25% in the past two years.
He believes that part of the problem is that the government is currently sending out the wrong message to potential students. This wrong message is realized by first, the axing of the two year post-study work visa which enabled students to stay on and work for two years, and second, by including foreign student figures in immigration figures.
Lord Bilimoria said: "The government should set a target to increase the number of foreign students coming to this country by a minimum of 10% a year for the next ten years. But instead they are sending out exactly the opposite signal." "Britain has the finest universities in the world along with the United States and yet for the first time ever the number of international students coming into the UK has declined. Alarm bells should be ringing. We need more foreign students, for the money that they bring in, for the benefit that they bring to our universities, and because we want the brightest and best from around the world." "The government is being very short-sighted. It should be doing everything it can to attract the brightest and the best foreign students from around the world. We are in a global race to attract the best talent."
He said that foreign students contribute to the UK economy in other ways. "Foreign students bring in well over £10 billion to the economy. They also bring an international dimension to our universities and expose our own domestic students to people from all over the world. The bridges that are built last for many years," he said.
He believes that having an ethnically diverse workforce could be really beneficial for a business. He noted: "We always used to call Cobra Beer a mini United Nations because we had people from so many different nationalities and countries of origin working in our company. It was fabulous because that diversity really enhances an innovation culture. If you have a business that is one dimensional versus a business that is diverse, there is no comparison. You can compete so much better because you have that diversity."