1. ITV Report

Wiltshire business tycoon urges foreign students exemption from immigration targets

Sir James Dyson owns the Wiltshire based tech company. Photo: Dyson

Sir James Dyson is ramping up the pressure on Prime Minister Theresa May to usher in more international talent post-Brexit by eliminating overseas students from the official immigration figures.

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The Wiltshire based technology tycoon wants the Government to welcome foreign students specialising in maths, engineering and science by making them exempt from Government efforts to cut immigration once Article 50 is triggered on Wednesday.

I wouldn't want the Government to target that area. We should make maths, science and engineering students that come to stay in this country welcome here.I am very much against targeting them. I think they should be excluded from the immigration targets.

– Sir James Dyson

The Brexit-backing billionaire, who is pumping millions of pounds into a new university in Wiltshire, said the UK should embrace an approach akin to the Australian regime where it uses a points-based system to allow the brightest students to stay in the country after studying.

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Sir James announced plans to launch the Dyson Institute of Engineering and Technology in September - a new university based at its Malmesbury headquarters in Wiltshire.

He said the current UK system is flawed because we are educating foreign students at some of the best universities in the world - and then sending their skills back home.

In Australia, students are served points based on their academic achievements, which strengthen their case to stay in the country.

However, under the current UK rules, EU students have find a job within six months of graduating, while non-EU students have to secure work within four months of their studies finishing.

Credit: PA Images

The Prime Minister is facing growing public and Cabinet pressure to remove international students from the target to get net immigration down to the tens of thousands.

International Trade Secretary Liam Fox revealed earlier this month that there was an "ongoing argument" within Government over the issue and he agreed with Cabinet colleagues that students should be left out of the figures.

However, Mrs May's official spokeswoman said at the time that she would not relent to pressure to remove students from the immigration target.

Official figures show the number of students coming to the UK dropped by 41,000 in the year to September 2016, with the number of non-EU students falling by 31,000.

On Brexit, Sir James added: "I think the Government has handled it very well. It is a big set of negotiations and the less you say beforehand the better the negotiations. You also have to be prepared to walk away if you don't get a good deal.

"We already pay the World Trade Organisation (WTO) tariff into Europe because we manufacture in Singapore and that has not affected us.

"It is not the end of the world to pay import tariffs. However, I think the EU would not be acting in its best interests if they did not negotiate a free trade agreement with the UK."

A Government spokesman said: "We remain committed to attracting the brightest and best students to the UK and there is no limit on the number of students who can come here to study.

"In 2016, visa applications for Russell Group universities increased by 6% showing that our world-leading educational institutions continue to appeal to people from across the world.

"As international students, like other migrants, who stay for longer than 12 months in the UK have an impact on communities, infrastructure and services it is right they are included in the net migration statistics."