In his first public speech since his appointment last month, Johnson maintained the previous government’s discourse of attracting the “best and brightest” students to the UK saying it was his personal aim to “overcome misconceptions about the UK” among key source countries including India where incoming numbers have plummeted.
“We will engage and explain. We will make clear that there is no cap on the number of students who can come to study in the UK and no intention to introduce one,” Johnson said opening the British Council’s annual Going Global conference in London.
“We will make clear that there is no cap on the number of students who can come to study in the UK and no intention to introduce one”
“Nor is there any cap on the number of former students who can stay on to work – as long as they have a graduate job.”
To achieve the bold goal of increasing exports by some £10bn in the next five years, Johnson said income from international student fees, transnational education, and online tuition will drive growth.
The government will also spend an additional £70m on scholarships to support international students through the Chevening, Commomwealth and Marshall schemes. Currently 435,000 international students study at UK universities.
Johnson defended the country’s international education strategy introduced in 2012 saying it is “a strong offer that suffers from misconceptions” and that the UK is “open for business and the government extends a very warm welcome to the brightest and the best students around the world”.
He added that the strategy’s post-study work and visa policies are just now “bedding down” as the government looks to consolidate reforms announced in 2012.
Johnson praised the Home Office’s immigration policy highlighting the closure of 870 bogus colleges since 2010 saying it is in everybody’s interest to have a sector “that isn’t plagued by cowboy operators and fraudsters”.
“It is in everybody’s interest to have a sector that isn’t plagued by cowboy operators and fraudsters”
He further commended reforms to the visa system saying it ensures students who are not genuine are not allowed entrance.
A former international student himself, Johnson also said the government needs to do more to increase the nearly 29,000 UK students who studied overseas last year.
“CBI surveys show our businesses remain unhappy with UK graduates’ overall foreign language abilities and disappointed by their general cultural awareness,” he said. “We must do more to prepare ourselves for the globalised world.”