'Hawkish' Tories a 'risk to unis'
Vince Cable has warned that the Conservatives' "hawkish" approach to immigration risks putting off foreign students and undermining an economic asset to the UK.
He said, however, that so far there has not been a significant drop in the number of applications from overseas to British institutions, despite some universities expressing fears.
"The numbers have held up quite well bit it is worrying that this potentially massive industry, because that's what it is. It brings £9bn to the country in various ways, is put at some risk because of the politics around immigration."
Dr Cable also criticised the system where a university's students are sent home if its licence to grant overseas visas is revoked. He commented directly on the case at London Metropolitan University, where students were facing being sent home until the university was granted a High Court appeal.
"The point you raise about students here on an entirely valid basis suddenly having their university education stopped because their college has infringed the immigration rules is very, very unfair, and we acknowledge that."
He was keen to point out that the target of bringing immigration down to a net total of 100,000 people a year was not a government policy, but a Tory one.
"The awkward problem is that the other side of the Coalition, as you know, have got this aspiration as they put it, to reduce the number of immigrants, or net immigration to below 100,000 - that's not Coalition policy. That's their party policy, but the two things tend to get brought together in the media and so they have a very hawkish approach to this whole issue."