Speaking on Radio 4’s Today programme, Lord Karan Bilimoria criticised the Home Secretary’s plans to curb immigration by reducing the number of international students at UK universities.
“If you survey the public, the government is completely out of tune with the public,” the founder of Cobra beer said.
“The public don’t feel that international students are immigrants. The public actually don’t mind international students staying on and working after they graduate.”
Lord Bilimoria’s comments were in response to the Home Secretary’s speech at the Tory Party Conference yesterday, in which she outlined new plans that will make it tougher for foreign students to study in the UK.
In the proposed multi-tiered student visa system, the right to work as a student, to work in the UK after graduation, to bring along family, and to arrive without passing an English language test would all be tied to the quality of the university and course the student was applying for.
This means that international students applying to top universities like Oxford or Cambridge would be more likely to be admitted to study in the UK than those looking at lower ranked institutions.
Rudd said: “I’m passionately committed to making sure our world-leading institutions can attract the brightest and the best. But a student immigration system that treats every student and university as equal only punishes those we should want to help.”
But Lord Bilimoria, who was born in India and moved to Britain in the 1980s, told the Today programme that international students bring £14 billion to the UK economy and create over 130,000 jobs.
He also dismissed Rudd’s claims that international students do not need to be able to speak English to study in the UK, saying it was clear that she was following in the “anti-immigration, anti-international students” footsteps of her predecessor Theresa May.
Students and academics have joined Lord Bilimoria in taking a stand against the new proposals:
Mostafa Rajaai, international students’ office for the National Union of Students, added to the public outcry, telling The Huffington Post UK: “The government’s hostile attitude towards international students has already caused irreversible damage to the reputation of the UK higher and further education sectors overseas.
“The new proposals assume the vast majority of international students studying across the country are immigration threats and will lead to further discrimination.”
Lord Bilimoria also attacked Rudd’s plan to force firms to publish a list of foreign staff.
He said: “This is absolutely shocking. This country had moved so far in breaking through glass ceilings and being a meritocracy and here we are having to name and shame foreign workers?
“This is absolutely wrong - it’s shocking.”
But also speaking on Today this morning, Rudd appeared to row back on her proposal.
“It’s not something we’re definitely going to do, it’s one of the tools we’re going to use as a review to see if we can use it as a way of nudging people to do better behaviour,” she said.
“We are saying work with us, businesses, to deliver on what we need to have, which is more skilled local labour force.”