London: Britain's most prominent business leaders, including Indian-origin Karan Bilimoria of Cobra Beer, on Sunday appealed to Prime Minister David Cameron to remove foreign students from official immigration figures to avoid choking off a valuable source of wealth and skills.
In a letter published in The Sunday Times, the 37 business leaders warn that visa restrictions designed to bring net immigration below 100,000 a year will deter wealthy foreigners from outside the European Union.
Among those calling on Cameron to reverse the policy are Sir Martin Sorrell, chief executive of WPP; Lord Jones, former director-general of the Confederation of British Industry and trade minister; and Lord Bilimoria, the Cobra beer co-founder who came to Britain as a student.
The 37 business leaders warn that visa restrictions will deter wealthy foreigners from outside the European Union.
The leaders say in the letter that Britain needs "to be able to attract the best minds from around the world" and that the country needs "to send a clear message that genuine international students are welcome to study in the UK."
"They are integral to the success of British business and we must do everything we can to ensure their future contribution is not compromised."
In an editorial titled 'Britain needs the world's best brains', The Sunday Times supported the business leaders and said: "Our universities have long been a magnet for the brightest and best students from around the world.
"Their talents enrich our universities intellectually and through their fees they also help the universities to balance their books. For many higher education institutions, the fee income from foreign students has been a lifeline in tough times."
The editorial said: "That is not, of course, the only benefit in attracting international students to Britain. Many, when they return home, will carry a loyalty towards this country that will stand us in good stead in the future, either through trading relationships or because, once successful in business, they are more likely to choose to invest here."
"At a time of enormous change in the global economy, when Britain needs to forge relationships with the rapidly growing emerging economies, this is more important than ever. Countries such as China, India and Brazil are sending record numbers of young people abroad to study."