Government backs immigration changes

The Vice Chancellor of Cambridge University and I had a chat some months ago. We discussed a number of joint ambitions around working together to promote Cambridge. One of the issues that had me worried was the impact of the very restrictive regulations on those who could stay and create businesses after studying.

We all wish to control immigration but forcing the brightest and the best to leave our shores and set up in competition to our companies makes no sense.

I have spent some time lobbying government to make a minor adjustment to the rules as have others. It seems we have a result.

Changes to immigration rules put forward as part of the Greater Cambridge City Deal Bid have been included in Government proposals to help businesses and retain high skilled international students.

The architects of the City Deal Bid have welcomed the news that Government will be making changes to rules which will encourage the brightest and best global talent to come to the UK to study, work, invest and set up business.

From April the UK Border Agency will expand the Graduate Entrepreneur scheme to allow up to 1,000 international MBA graduates from British universities to stay in the UK for a year after graduating.

These graduates will be able to develop their own business idea, or work in a start-up, after which they will have the option to stay on in the UK as a skilled worker or entrepreneur.

Cambridgeshire County Council, Cambridge City Council, South Cambridgeshire District Council, University of Cambridge and the Local Enterprise Partnership put the bid together.

They wanted to see changes to the immigration system to avoid unintended negative impacts on the high-tech businesses in and around Cambridge.

If the changes had not been made students from local universities would be prevented from building world class businesses locally using the skills they had gained in Cambridge.

Local high-tech industry relies on the best brains in the world being able to stay, study and set up businesses in Cambridgeshire.

Currently negotiations are continuing to secure the Greater Cambridge City Deal which would bring more powers and finance for local use to support ongoing economic growth.

Local partners believe the arguments put forward in the City Deal bid were critical in securing this welcome change to the immigration rules.

All partners involved in the City Deal bid recognised that the current system was harming our unique economic system. Greater Cambridge competes on the world stage with City regions like Greater Boston, Bangalore and Silicon Valley. We need to keep the best brains in the world within our local economy so we can continue to be world beaters. That is why we put such emphasis on immigration issues within our City Deal bid and were able to convince ministers to make the changes recently announced. This is an early win for the City Deal process and shows what can be done when local public authorities work with business and academia to address barriers to growth.

University of Cambridge Pro-Vice Chancellor, Jeremy Sanders, said: “For hundreds of years we have been at the forefront of academic excellence and the ability to bring students from across the world to swap ideas and skills is part of that. The success of the Cambridge Phenomenon has been built on the successful commercialisation of ideas emerging through the University from students who have come here from all over the world. These changes will help students, no matter their background, to use the knowledge and skills gained here to develop businesses in Greater Cambridge. This will benefit the local economy as well as the national one, bringing jobs and prosperity.”

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