Sajid Javid, the business secretary, wants to “break the link” between overseas students coming to study in the UK and staying on to work after graduation.
Mr Javid, who is in charge of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, which is responsible for higher education, made the comments this morning in an interview on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
The government’s decision to abolish the post-study work visa in 2012 is seen by universities as being a deterrent to non-European Union students considering coming to the UK, and as a particular factor in the decline in Indian student recruitment.
Mr Javid was asked if he would reverse government policy to allow overseas students to stay on after graduation.
“I think what we need to make sure, and we do have this, is that our immigration system allows those from abroad that want to come to Britain to study in our world-class universities, our fantastic colleges, to come here,” he said.
The interviewer, Justin Webb, then asked: “And stay on?”
“No,” replied Mr Javid. “But we’ve also got to have a system that doesn’t allow any abuse where people are using the right to study as a way to achieve settlement in Britain.
“So it shouldn’t be about settlement. We’ve got to break the link and make sure it’s focused on people who want to study and then, once they’ve had their studies and completed that, then they leave.”
Mr Javid’s interview was to discuss the government’s productivity plan, to be published later today.
Jo Johnson, the universities and science minister who is a colleague of Mr Javid’s in BIS, co-authored a 2012 Financial Times article, published shortly after the scrapping of post-study work visas, that said the UK’s international competitors in the overseas student market such as the US, Australia and Canada “take a smarter approach to post-study work”.
Mr Johnson’s article added: “Students value this highly (partly because it enables them to start paying off student loans), and will invest their human capital elsewhere if [post-study work] is not available.”