Mr Johnson, who is visiting India as part of a trade mission, called on coalition ministers to protect London’s status as a leading global centre for education.
He has written to the Theresa May, the home secretary and Vince Cable, the business secretary, urging that students are removed from the government’s net migration target. Mr Johnson has also asked for new measures to be introduced to better protect genuine students if institutions lose their licences to sponsor visas.
Meanwhile, the mayor has asked the government to consider setting up an “Educational Exports Commission”, which would promote London’s universities abroad.
“International students not only bring bright ideas that cement the reputations of our leading universities, they have huge spending power that boosts the UK economy,” he said.
“The government is right not to open the door to those who will simply be a drain on the state, but it’s crazy that we should be losing India’s top talent and the global leaders of the future to Australia and the United States.”
His comments follow falls in applications from Indian students to some UK universities in the light of stricter visa rules and the decision to revoke London Metropolitan University’s visa licence earlier this year.
The mayor visited the campus of Amity University, in Noida south of Delhi, where he met with students. Atul Chauhan, Amity University’s chancellor, said the institution was “delighted” to have Boris Johnson on campus. Amity also has a UK base at the Amity London Business School in Bloomsbury.
“His charismatic personality will ignite a spark amongst the hundreds of Amity students who will interact with him personally and the over 100,000 Amity students around the world who will be able to view the interaction live,” he said.
The mayor was also due to attend a reception at the British High Commission in Delhi alongside representatives from the London Universities International Partnership (LUIP), a group of 16 universities in the capital seeking to promote the city as a study destination.
Later today, Mr Johnson was set to unveil a new web portal as part of a partnership between LUIP and online job agency Naukri.com to link Indian companies directly with highly skilled graduates who have studied in London.