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Higher Education and Research Bill - Committee (6th Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 7:45 pm on 25th January 2017.

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Photo of Lord Rees of Ludlow Lord Rees of Ludlow Crossbench 7:45 pm, 25th January 2017

My Lords, I support the amendment. I do not have much to add to the eloquent comments that have been made by the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, and other speakers. I would like to express bafflement that we are still banging on about this issue, which surely has been a compelling argument for more than two years. In the time of the coalition there was already discussion about this but the Government resisted, although there was clearly support for this within BIS.

It is clear that what is happening is an own goal in a number of ways. We need these students in our universities for academic reasons, to sustain specialised courses, to maintain academic quality and to make friends in the long term. It is a matter of perception as well as reality. The reason why the numbers from India plummeted more than from China was that the Indian press were able to present the message that students were not welcome any more in the UK. So perception is very important. We will lose a great deal of soft power in the long run if we maintain this perception. The present Government’s policy is baffling, not only to many of us on the Cross Benches, but to many people within the Government and on the Conservative Benches. George Osborne expressed concern about this and other Ministers have too.

There is the separate issue of whether we should be more liberal in allowing graduates with talent to stay in this country. Our policy has been strongly attacked by James Dyson, one of our leading entrepreneurs, who presented a report for the Conservative Government.

On all these grounds, I support this amendment and renew my bafflement that it is—at least up till now—meeting so much resistance from the Government. I hope that there will be a change of view and a realisation that it is an own goal to sustain this policy.