London, February 24: Britain's senior business leaders have issued an appeal to the UK government to curb the sharp drop in international students from countries like India.
According to statistics released recently by the UK's Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA), Indian students studying at British universities had registered a 12 per cent drop from the previous year to 19,750 from 22,385.
It reflected an extremely concerning fall from 39,090 during the peak period of 2010-2011.Chiefs of major UK-based firms and parliamentarians in an open letter published in 'The Financial Times' launched an attack on "ill-thought-out immigration policies" and demanded that students be excluded from the country's net migration targets.
"Whoever is in government after May 2015 general elections must consider removing university international students from any net migration target, as well as increase opportunities for qualified international graduates to remain in the UK, for some time at least, once they complete their studies," the letter said.
The letter has been signed by the NRI entrepreneur and Cobra Beer founder Lord Bilimoria and Simon Collins, UK chairman and senior partner of KPMG.
The group also strongly favoured allowing foreign students to be allowed to stay and work in the UK after graduating, a key factor for Indian students being put off applying to study in the UK.
Universities UK, a representative organisation for the UK's universities, welcomed the new intervention and stressed that short-term post-study visas were crucial to attracting overseas students.
While the HESA figures released last month reflected a slight overall improvement in overseas student enrolling at UK universities, the drop in Indian student figures was flagged as a concern.
"International figures showed modest recovery during this period 2013-14], but problems remain with recruitment from India.
There is growing demand for quality higher education around the world, so the UK should be capitalising on this, rather than seeing the stagnation of the last few years," Dandridge has warned in the past.
Last year, the Conservative-led UK government had indicated tougher new plans to send students back to their home countries at the end of their course in Britain.
At present most of these students, largely from China and India, can switch to a work visa while still in the country. A British Council study had also found that Indians are already choosing US universities over the UK due to strict visa norms on post-study work.