Imperial chief: We risk shutting out best students

 Imperial College London (Imperial College London)
Imperial College London (Imperial College London)

Britain’s “unwelcoming” attitude to international students risks shutting universities off from the world’s most talented people, the head of one of London’s top universities warned.

Hugh Brady, President of Imperial College London, said the university — a top ranking science research institution — would not be able to compete without its foreign students. He also said Imperial will continue to work with China because global problems cannot be solved by working in isolation.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is attempting to cut the number of foreign students coming to the UK, while Home Secretary Suella Braverman has proposed reducing the time they can stay after finishing their course.

Experts have warned this would harm the UK’s attractiveness to international students. Professor Brady said: “There is no other internationally competitive ecosystem that would even think of shutting themselves off from the best talent from across the globe. If you ask any taxi driver, cafe owner or business owner they will say these students bring diversity, they spend hugely, they contribute to our communities. And the figures show they go back home.”

He added that international PhD students are part of the “engine room” of the UK’s research universities. “The bigger the pool from which we draw those students the better our innovation ecosystem will be. Similarly for our staff,” he said.

Forty five per cent of Imperial students are from overseas but Professor Brady denied that the university relies too heavily on foreign students. He said the extra funding that they bring “bolsters” the experience of UK students.

Chinese students are the largest international group at Imperial — there are 2,600 Chinese students there.

Professor Brady said the university and the UK need to find a way to work with China on global issues including pandemic preparedness, anti-microbial resistance, environmental sustainability, climate change and food security.

Imperial recently closed two joint research centres sponsored by Chinese aerospace and defence companies after fears were raised the research could advance China’s military ambitions.