News: James Dyson, designer of the Dyson vacuum cleaner, has attacked the UK government's plans to force overseas students to return home after completing their studies, describing the idea as "short-sighted".
Writing in The Guardian yesterday, Dyson described the plans as "a short-term vote winner that leads to long-term economic decline".
The plans, drawn up in response to voters' concerns about immigration, would affect overseas students on all UK courses, including design, technology and engineering.
Dyson argued that the UK has made a mistake by seeing education as an export industry: "Britain offers foreign students the best education in return for eye-watering fees," he wrote.
This means that ideas generated in UK colleges and universities are exported when students return home, instead of benefitting the UK economy, he argues.
"Instead, our education system should be a tool to import the world's greatest minds," Dyson wrote. "And, most importantly, to keep them here, so our economy – and our culture – benefits."
The industrialist was writing in response to news that Theresa May, the UK's home secretary, is considering forcing all non-European Union graduates to return to their home countries first before applying for a UK work visa, rather than remaining in the UK to look for employment.
May wants the idea to be part of the Conservative government's manifesto for the UK general election, due to be held in May this year.
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Dyson's rejection of the idea echoes similar concerns voiced by leading figures in the design industry, who fear it could damage London's position as a leading centre for design.
Speaking to Dezeen in 2013, Nigel Coates, professor emeritus at the Royal College of Art, said government moves to make it harder for design and architecture graduates to stay in the city "would be a disaster for London".
"For creative people, London is the most attractive city in the world, partly because of its schools," Coates said. "But the government, confused as always, seems to be shooting itself – and us – in the foot."
"It's making it very, very difficult for AA students," agreed Sadie Morgan, president of the Architectural Association school. "They give huge amounts to the UK economy. It's a really big issue. It's damaging and short-sighted of the UK government. They're looking to be doing something aggressive about immigration but it is hugely damaging for schools like ours."
Dyson, 67, studied furniture and interior design at the Royal College of Art and went on to invent first the Ballbarrow, a wheelbarrow featuring a hollow plastic sphere instead of the traditional wheel, and later the Dyson bagless vacuum cleaner, which made him his fortune.
Dyson is worth an estimated £3 billion and sponsors the annual James Dyson Award for product innovation, which was won last year by Bump Mark, an expiry label that detects when food is no longer safe to eat.