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My Lords, I am extremely grateful to everyone who has spoken in this debate. There have been some excellent contributions, including the splendid maiden speech of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chichester.
There has been a clear message throughout this debate. I recall how a few years back I initiated a debate on the need for an evidence-based drugs policy, and in replying, the Minister said that opinions on the subject were divided. Afterwards someone pointed out that in fact there had been no division of opinion in that debate—everybody was agreed—and that the only person who had taken issue was the Minister.
It is quite clear that the export of higher education is a vital resource for the United Kingdom. It is a public good at any time but it is especially important today when we need to strengthen our economy, bolster research in our universities and enhance our influence internationally. As various noble Lords have stressed, overseas students enrich our universities. I benefit enormously from my own postgraduate students who now span the globe—one went on to be his country’s Minister for Finance. Higher education adds to our global reputation—we benefit enormously and our students benefit enormously from the interaction with those students.
I thank my noble friend Lord Younger for replying to the debate. I suspect with my noble friend you are actually preaching to the converted. The problem is not with the Department for Education, the Foreign Office or the Department for International Trade, it is essentially with the Home Office and I appreciate that my noble friend may have been limited in what he could say. The key point, which has clearly come over, is that unless action is taken, we are going to find ourselves at an increasing disadvantage, not only in recruiting non-EU students but also ones from EU states.
I reiterate that there has to be a culture shift on the part of the Government and especially the Home Office. I hope my noble friend will deliver on what he said and convey the message he has heard in this debate to his colleagues in government and ensure that what we have said is heard clearly and loudly. If he does, he will find that he has very strong support.