Foreign students and advisors are pictured outside a campus of the London Metropolitan University in London, on August 30, 2012. Thousands of overseas students on Thursday faced possible deportation from Britain after the government stripped a London university of its right to sponsor their visas. Amid alarm at the potential damage to the foreign student market in Britain -- worth an estimated £14 billion (17.7 billion euros, $22.2 billion) -- the government rushed to reassure foreign students that it was an isolated case. AFP PHOTO / CARL COURT (Photo credit should read CARL COURT/AFP/GettyImages)

In making his compelling case for immigration as a spur to economic growth, Ian Goldin ( “Immigration is vital to boost economic growth”, September 10) points to the “growing disconnect between the positive economic impact and increasingly negative perceptions of immigration”.

But nearly three-quarters of Britons support giving international students the right to work in the UK after graduation.

This week’s Migration Advisory Committee report recommends modest extensions of post-study work options for international students. A powerful starting point would be science, technology, engineering and medicine graduates, who would contribute to innovation and growth if they remained in the UK.

At Imperial College London foreign students are over-represented on inventions, patents and in start-ups relative to their population in the university. They are natural risk takers, having moved far away from home for their studies. Their start-ups create more jobs than they consume.

Three-year post-study work visas for STEM PhD students, and new post-study work options for STEM graduates would help align UK policy with the US, Canada and Australia.

The UK government would be wise to catch up with its peers, the economic evidence and public opinion.

Prof Alice Gast
President, Imperial College London, UK

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