Daniel Zeichner, MP for Cambridge, told the Commons at Prime Minister's Questions today that the Prime Minister has turned her back on billions of pounds that could have been used for schools and hospitals. He raised the issue of the money lost from international student numbers as the Prime Minister had made the UK a less attractive destination. Hitting out at Theresa May's policies, both as Home Secretary and Prime Minister, he said:
"Recent research shows that international students are worth a staggering £20 billion to our economy - that research commissioned by Nick Hillman, the Conservative Parliamentary candidate for Cambridge in 2010 and former adviser to Lord Willetts."
"Yet the steady rise in students coming here was halted by the policies introduced by the Prime Minister, who made the UK a much less attractive destination. Would the Secretary of State agree that it was more than a touch careless of the Prime Minister to mislay billions of pounds that could have transformer our schools and hospitals?"
The research was published recently in a report by the Higher Education Policy Institute which shows that international students have a net impact of more than £20 billion for the UK economy.
David Lidington MP, the First Secretary who stood in for the Prime Minister today while she was away in China, replied: "What the facts say is that we are the second most popular destination in the world for students, and university visa applications are up by nearly one fifth since 2010, so I would argue that contrary to what he alleges, we are doing a good job at attracting international students."
Daniel Zeichner says: "It's shocking that the First Secretary is unaware of the huge amounts of money being squandered by the government. His completely unsubstantiated claim contradicts the evidence that the report shows: that from 2001 - 2010, numbers of international students in the UK grew steadily, along with the economic benefits that this brings. From 2010 onwards, the number of international students flat-lined. When the Tory Mayor for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, James Palmer, signs a letter to the Prime Minister calling for a more sensible system, it's clear that her policies are unpopular even on her own side."
"This research shows the huge benefit that we get from international students, in concrete figures - let alone the community benefit we gain from having a diverse society. It proves again that the Prime Minister's insistence on including international students in their immigration figures and targets is a nonsense. Cambridge's residents each gain £1460 from international students in our constituency - Theresa May needs to stop her ideological scape-goating of our international student community."
"This research underlines the Tories' failure to implement a sensible immigration system. It shows that their policies have deterred international students coming to the UK - at great cost to us all."