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George Osborne blocks Theresa May’s plan to send overseas students home

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Theresa May’s proposal to force international students to return home after they have graduated has been blocked by George Osborne and Conservative leadership, amid fears that the plan would damage British businesses and universities.

Ms. May’s plan, which required overseas students to apply for new UK visas from their home countries after graduating, has been the subject of much controversy, with key figures such as Sir James Dyson adding their voices to the debate.

According to the Financial Times, senior Conservative officials have confirmed that “the measures will not be included in the Conservative manifesto, which Mr. Osborne a leading voice in warning that the move would be damaging to the economy.”

One Conservative official told the FT: “We have a policy that international students can stay when they graduate if they find a graduate-level job paying £24,000 a year. That remains the policy.”

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This is not the first time that Ms. May and Mr. Osborne have clashed over immigration issues: the dispute is a powerful factor affecting the leadership ambitions of both senior ministers. May is viewed with suspicion by both Cameron and Osborne; the media leak of her latest immigration initiative was perceived by many to be an attempt to increase her popularity with the Conservative right.  

Former universities and science minister David Willetts discussed recent developments relating to May’s plan on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme this morning. Willetts described the proposal as “mean-spirited”, also commenting that:

“It was never government policy and I’m pleased that, judging by these press reports today, it’s not going to be Conservative policy at the next election.”

While Ms. May’s plans have, seemingly, been rebuffed by the Conservatives, they have already caught the attention of a number of international news agencies. The dissemination of such information worldwide is likely to have caused many UK universities to fear that the country’s reputation as a welcoming destination for overseas students has been damaged still further.

Writing in the Guardian, Sir James Dyson commented: “May’s immigration plans simply force the nimble minds we nurture to return home and fuel competition from overseas. Why would they return? Often, they hail from emerging economies and nations that respect science and engineering.”