Eastern Powerhouse boss issues plea to PM Rishi Sunak over foreign students

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Overseas students add £2bn to region’s economy

​The boss of the Eastern Powerhouse has called for foreign students numbers to be dropped from the UK’s immigration statistics.

​The plea from James Palmer, chair of the Eastern Powerhouse, which is a business-led lobby group made up of politicians and business people from across the region, comes in a letter to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.

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It comes as figures show that net migration to the UK last year reached a record 606,000 but the statistics include students from overseas who are studying at UK universities.

James Palmer, chair of the Eastern Powerhouse.James Palmer, chair of the Eastern Powerhouse.
James Palmer, chair of the Eastern Powerhouse.

Concerns have been voiced at Government plans to restrict the award of visas to foreign students.

In his letter, Mr Palmer states: “In the East of England around £2 billion per year is created for the economy by foreign students using the knowledge they have gained from education here.

"I am writing to you on behalf of members of Eastern Powerhouse with our shared concern about the inclusion of foreign students in immigration numbers.

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"Our belief is that the positive impact on the economy of the East

of England - and of the United Kingdom as a whole - by foreign students, educated at our exceptional universities, should be the primary concern of Government.

"Any movement to limit numbers or stymy opportunities for students to come here from abroad should be rejected.

Mr Palmer adds: "We would like to see immigration figures produced without foreign students included, we believe this would lead to a clearer understanding of net immigration.

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“For businesses in the East, recruitment is the biggest concern, with the ability to attract highly educated staff a particular worry.

"This is common across sectors and is already limiting productivity in the region.

"In research, start-up, science and technology companies, limiting foreign students would have a significant detrimental effect.

And he adds: “The regional economy is driven by multiple small companies at the vanguard of technology and we support the need for foreign students to be part of that burgeoning sector.”