Cambridge MP Julian Huppert has attacked a Labour suggestion that foreign students should forfeit their university degrees unless they leave the country, as “profoundly damaging”.
He told the Commons that the idea would be incredibly damaging to Cambridge’s economy and many other areas of the country.
Julian said: “Once we have trained some of the brightest and best people here, we want them to contribute to the economy. We want them to set up companies that will employ people here locally.”
Julian spoke out in the Commons after Labour MP Frank Field said that university vice-chancellors should be ‘refusing to award degrees until students fulfil their promise to go home’.
“The idea that we would say to students that they have to leave the country before they can graduate strikes me as profoundly damaging,” said Julian.
“There is also the question of post-study work visas, which are incredibly valuable. If he talks to the vice-chancellors of Cambridge University and Anglia Ruskin University—two universities in my constituency—he will hear that there is demand.”
Julian acknowledged that there were issues around immigration but that the country benefits massively – financially, culturally and socially – from immigration.
“There is far too much negative rhetoric that is, frankly, xenophobic,” he said. “That is something we have to try to avoid. It has no place in the discussions we are having.”
Later Julian said: “I was shocked that anyone would suggest students should have to leave the country to get a degree.
“Leaving aside the fact that it seems harsh to deprive them of their graduation ceremony, it makes absolutely no sense to push out some of the world’s brightest and best young people as soon as they have finished training.
“There are many examples of foreign students who have stayed in the UK and gone on to contribute substantially to our economy, setting up businesses and employing many other people. Additionally, education is one of our great export markets – I was shocked that a Labour MP would want to damage our economy so badly.
“Immigration is overall good for our country, but there are downsides and we need to address those problems. Where there is a need for more school places, we should build those; where houses are needed, we should construct more homes and where wages are illegally forced below the National Minimum Wage, we should crack down on that.
“What we should not do is close the doors and make Britain an unwelcoming place. That would have serious implications for our economy and our world-class standing in education, science and business.”