ACTOR Sir Patrick Stewart has joined a campaign to help foreign students come to British universities.
The Mirfield-born star is backing the protest in his role as Chancellor of the University of Huddersfield.
He and others in the education field have warned that British universities could lose out on millions of pounds annually if immigration policies are not changed.
Sir Patrick was among 68 chancellors, governors and university presidents who signed a letter to Prime Minister David Cameron, warning that Government crackdowns on immigration could lead to foreign students going elsewhere, costing the British economy billions.
The letter echoes warnings from Professor Eric Thomas, president of Universities UK and vice-chancellor of the University of Bristol, earlier this month, when he warned that recent visa changes could deter foreign students.
The letter says Britain attracts around one in 10 students who study outside their home country, generating around £8billion a year in tuition fees.
Signatories include former Liberal Democrat leader Menzies Campbell, chancellor of St Andrew’s University, as well as broadcaster Lord Melvyn Bragg, chancellor of the University of Leeds, and former Conservative minister Virginia Bottomley, chancellor of the University of Hull.
In Huddersfield, there are about 3,000 overseas students out of a total number of 24,000.
A spokesman said: “They are a vital part of university life and of the Huddersfield economy.
“They bring millions of pounds to us and to the town. If they did not come to the UK, they would go to study in the States or Australia.”
Prof Thomas said previously: “The UK seems to be telling the world it doesn’t welcome international students, while other countries are travelling in different directions. We are requesting that international university students should be removed from the net migration statistics for policy purposes, bringing us in line with our major competitors.
“We believe that this would help the Government by creating a clear differentiation between temporary and permanent migration, help universities whose international character is essential to their future success, and help the UK by contributing to economic growth.”
Immigration Minister Damian Green said: “There is no limit on the number of genuine students who can come to the UK and our reforms are not stopping them. But we are determined to prevent the abuse of student visas as part of our plans to get net migration down to the tens of thousands.”