THE chancellor of Oxford University has urged the Government to stop treating international students as economic migrants.

Lord Patten of Barnes blamed the Government's 'obsession' with an immigration target, which he pointed out it had repeatedly failed to meet.

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has backed excluding overseas students from the Government's target to get net migration down to the tens of thousands.

But this has been rejected by the Prime Minister who has insisted counting students in the figures had helped the Government crack down on bogus colleges that had been used as a back-door route to working in Britain illegally.

However, Lord Patten warned over the detrimental impact of classing students as economic migrants.

In his criticism, the peer, who backed the UK staying in the EU, referred to Theresa May's recent Brexit speech in which she spoke of her wish to build a "global Britain".

Lord Patten said: "It would be extraordinary if having become global Britain we were to prevent the huge numbers of international students coming to study.

"Why do we deny ourselves, our universities, the benefits of educating more young people from around the world?"

He insisted that people understood the difference between a student and an immigrant and the contribution they made to the economy.

"So why do we behave so foolishly? Because of our fixation with an immigration target.

"We put higher education in a more difficult position, we cut ourselves from a great deal of economic benefits because of that obsession with an immigration target, which we fail to reach, very often because we are growing so rapidly, year after year."

Highlighting the growing demand in Asia for a top-class western university education, he said: "We have made the choice, global Britain, to cut ourselves off from that. It's completely crazy."