The Home Secretary has defended proposals which would see international students expelled from the UK after graduation.
Sir James Dyson, the British inventor and businessman, recently dismissed the policy as a cynical attempt to win votes and warned it could cause long-term damage to the UK economy.
Writing in The Guardian, Sir James said: “Theresa May’s latest ploy to swing voters concerned about immigration magnifies my worry: she wants to exile foreign students upon qualification from British universities.
“Bright sparks are drawn to the UK for good reason – our universities are among the best in the world. Particularly for science and engineering. Yet the Home Office wants to say cheerio to these sharp minds as soon as their mortarboards land on college lawns.”
Both Labour and Conservative MPs seized on Sir James’ remarks and rose in the Commons to question the wisdom of the tough new approach.
James Gray, who represents North Wiltshire, was one of several backbenchers to put Mrs May on the spot during the Parliamentary debate.
“How would you answer my constituent Sir James Dyson, who argues that if your latest remarks about automatically sending all students home on completion of their studies were to be taken literally then that would have dire consequences for businesses like his who rely on engineers, scientists and others from overseas?”
Mrs May hit back, arguing that the number of graduates who came to the UK and stayed was unsustainable; although she insisted every effort would be made to ensure the “brightest and best” remained.
“We have to recognise that the latest surveys also show that 121,000 students came in from overseas while only 51,000 left in that year and that by the 2020s we will see 600,000 overseas students each year in this country,” she said.