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Stop treating international students like migrants, Lords warn

Tory former Cabinet minister Lord Patten of Barnes previously branded the Government’s approach to international students as “crazy”.

The Government has suffered a crushing defeat at the hands of peers demanding it stops treating international students as economic migrants.

The House of Lords backed by 313 votes to 219, majority 94, a cross-party call to end the widely-criticised policy of including them in the net migration figures.

The successful amendment, proposed at the report stage of the Higher Education and Research Bill, would also ensure overseas students and academic staff do not face tighter immigration controls in the future.

It would impose a duty on the Government to encourage international students and cooperation between UK universities and their overseas counterparts would have to be promoted.

Among those supporting the move was Tory former Cabinet minister Lord Patten of Barnes, the chancellor of Oxford University, who has previously branded the Government’s approach to international students as “crazy”. He was unable to attend the debate, however, due to ill health.

Ministers have suffered a series of defeats in the report stage debate on the Higher Education and Research Bill, which aims to encourage competition in the university sector.

Proposing the latest amendment to the Bill, Lord Hannay of Chiswick, the former UK ambassador to the UN and an independent crossbencher, stressed the economic benefits brought by international students.

Lord Hannay pointed out the UK was currently only second to the US as a provider of higher education to overseas students, but warned the UK was “losing market share to our main competitors”.

Labour peer Baroness Royall of Blaisdon highlighted the support at Westminster for overseas students to be separated out from the net migration figures and argued it was a “no brainer”.

She said: “We should and indeed we must welcome overseas students, especially as we begin life in a brave new global Britain where collaboration and soft power assume a greater importance.”

Criticising the attitude of the Home Office, Tory peer Lord Lucas said: “They seem to think that they are in a little box and all they have is their responsibility to keep people out of this country.”

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