Imperial's President Alice Gast has called on the government to reshape visa policy in an interview with the Evening Standard.
Professor Gast said London is “buzzing” with new ideas and technological breakthroughs, but the capital has an opportunity to become an “even greater leader in innovation and entrepreneurship”.
She told the newspaper that this is “a time when we need to think about how we can position London and the UK to be a global innovation powerhouse. The elements are here: we have great universities and what we need are the right places, the right people, the right environment.”
The quality of London’s science and technology sectors is one of this country’s great strengths and must be supported.
– Evening Standard
Editorial on Alice Gast's proposals
President Gast praised the contributions of international students and graduates, both in London and around the world. She said: “The Silicon Valley companies, over half were started by foreign students who had come and stayed on in the US.
“International students are perhaps naturally risk-takers, they have taken the risk to go far from home to study so you tend to find them filing patents, doing start-ups, being very entrepreneurial.
“If you look at our start-ups and spin-outs it’s often a mix of foreign and UK students, and that’s where London and the UK can be brilliantly ahead by being very globally focused. To do that we need visa policies that allow students to come here from abroad and allow them to stay to pursue their ideas.”
She added: “After Brexit we need to look at how we can improve the system so we get the most out of these bright, educated people. If even a handful of their start-up companies are successful they create more jobs than they consume. There’s a buzzing sense of growth here. It can be like San Francisco or the other great places that are booming.”
Vision for change
Professor Gast outlined her vision for improved visa policies, including US-style reforms to allow top STEM graduates to work in the UK for up to three years after graduation, and automatic visas for EU academics collaborating with their British peers after Brexit.
In an editorial leader, the Evening Standard said: “Today's call by Alice Gast, the head of London’s Imperial College, for reforms to the visa system governing the admission of students and academics to this country is timely and important as the Government considers the future of immigration policy once Britain leaves the EU… Ministers should study her ideas closely. The quality of London’s science and technology sectors is one of this country’s great strengths and must be supported.”
The full interview can be read online and in today's Evening Standard.
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