A report by London First has said that overseas students in London alone contribute as much as £2.3 billion to the economy. The report also claims that students from abroad are made to feel “unwelcome”. It goes on to argue that migration targets should be reclassified and students should be given visitor status, and should be allowed to work after graduation.

London First, which is a lobby that represents London businesses and the accountancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), also included in its report that the £2.3 billion quoted is after £540 million was taken off for public services, such as the NHS. It is also believed that international students help support as many as 70,000 jobs in the capital, through University fees and their expenditure while in the city.

Speaking on the subject of the students’ migrant status, the report says “They are here for a short time only and by choosing to study in the UK, they are contributing to jobs, growth and cultural understanding in this country. By classifying them as migrants and including them within the net migration target we are implying they are unwelcome.”

The report goes on to say that the government “should reinstate the automatic option… for international students to work here for a few years after graduation”. It says that such a policy would be “good for UK universities, good for UK business, and good for Britain’s long-term relations with the global business community”.

Julia Onslow-Cole at PwC said about the report: “While politicians recognise the importance of international students, there has been considerable debate over their economic value. This is the first study to quantify the benefits of student migration. We need more hard data like this to inform immigration policies and targets.”

Immigration minister James Brokenshire, who took up his position in 2014, added: “The government will pursue further reforms to tackle abuse while continuing to attract the brightest and the best to our world-class universities.

“The latest figures show this strategy is working – university applications from overseas students are up by 18% since 2010.”