Univeristy of Sheffield's Sir Keith Burnett 'ashamed' of Theresa May's stance on Indian students

University of Sheffield vice-chancellor Sir Keith Burnett

University of Sheffield vice-chancellor Sir Keith Burnett

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A leading voice in Sheffield education says he is 'truly ashamed' at the Prime Minister's attitude towards Indian students.

University of Sheffield vice-chancellor Sir Keith Burnett called on the Government to 'listen to India before it is too late' after accompanying Theresa May on a trade visit to the country.

Theresa May in India. Photo: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

Theresa May in India. Photo: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

Writing for Times Higher Education, Sir Keith said Indians who had studied in the UK said they felt 'insulted' by the Government's position.

"They say we want their money and business but are not willing to teach their children, even if they pay full whack," he wrote.

"They hear that our universities are allowed to teach and take the money only if Indian students are rich enough not to need a job, or can graduate to a job that pays over the odds in some parts of the UK.

"The Indians I have met say this is not really friendly at all."

Theresa May in India. Photo: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

Theresa May in India. Photo: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

Mrs May claimed the visit was a success, praising the 'excellent' response and highlighting the signing of trade deals worth 'a billion pounds'.

But Sir Keith said he had heard different voices.

He called the Prime Minister's position that foreign students should be labelled as migrants 'completely potty', noting 'even Nigel Farage didn't want that'.

And he pointed out that Indian students were worth £14 billion to the UK every year - the equivalent of more than one trade mission per month.

"Now when I talk to Indians, the hurt is plain," he wrote. "I feel truly ashamed, and don’t want that hurt to be ignored or unheeded. In fact, I’m sure that we need a full-scale response to the danger it heralds."

Sir Keith said the UK's stance towards overseas students, both in terms of reduced numbers of closed visa applications, was 'disastrous' for its relationship with India. He accused the Government of 'destroying hard-earned goodwill with a huge proportion of the world’s population'.

He added: "You should care about this. Your children’s jobs in the future could depend on it. So I’m going to work hard to make our education the very best for potential Indian students, and make the welcome as warm as possible in Sheffield."

Sir Keith spoke of the #WeAreInternational campaign, which began in Sheffield, and said he would work hard to build relationships with India universities and companies.

He added: "But I must beg, and I do beg. Please listen to India before it is too late."

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