Former cabinet minister Lord Heseltine has asked the government to exclude foreign students from plans to cut net immigration to the UK.
He told the BBC that non-EU students should be excluded from the official immigration figures to avoid the risk of damaging UK universities.
Including foreign students in plans to reduce net non-EU migration risked damaging the UK's reputation abroad, Lord Heseltine said.
Foreign students are "not the sort of people that are causing the anxiety about immigration," Lord Heseltine told the BBC.
"In talking about tens of thousands of people, the government will have to recognise that there are very large numbers of students in this country – in our universities, in our business schools – who are a great asset financially and educationally," Lord Heseltine said.
He warned that UK’s inability to attract foreign students would have an impact on the "lack of finance that follows", which he said could be "serious for universities".