Cameron Says U.K. May Have Sent Wrong Message on Students

U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron said his government may have incorrectly sent prospective students from India the message that they’re not welcome in Britain amid efforts to restrict immigration.

Cameron made his comments in an interview with Sunrise, a British-based broadcaster to the South Asian community, before a visit to India next week. India is among countries that are sending fewer students to the U.K. after a clampdown on visa issuance.

“I think we haven’t perhaps communicated this properly,” the prime minister said. “The fact is today, as we stand, and this is going to be the case going forward, there is no limit on the number of students who can come from India to study at British universities, no limit at all.”

Cameron previously said he wants the total number of immigrants into Britain reduced to the “tens of thousands.” In September, Home Secretary Theresa May ruled out removing overseas students from the migrant statistics, saying international protocols on data collection forbid it. She introduced a crackdown in 2011 on “bogus” foreign students who she said use educational visas in order to work illegally in the U.K.

“After you’ve left a British university, if you can get a graduate-level job there is no limit to the amount of people who can stay and work, or the time that they can stay at work,” Cameron said. “Now we need to take that message out to talented young people in India and say if you want to make that choice, Britain will be incredibly welcoming.”

British Universities

Lawmakers who head five U.K. parliamentary committees called on Cameron last month to exclude overseas students from the government’s immigration targets, saying such a move would “support economic growth in the immediate and longer term, supporting jobs in university towns and increasing export earnings.”

More than 34,000 students from outside the European Union were accepted at British universities in 2011, making it difficult for the government to hit its target for cutting the number of migrants unless they’re excluded.

May said in December that with annual net migratio at 183,000, there was still some way to go to achieve her goal of reducing that to less than 100,000 by 2015.

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