Despite a weight of evidence, the Tories are pulling up the drawbridge on international students, making our country less attractive to talent and risking our economy.

Against a backdrop of expert advice and sound data, the Conservative manifesto has dogmatically repeated their questionable policy of including international students in the official migration statistics.

Late last year esteemed experts stated in no uncertain terms that the UK needs to reform its visa and immigration system to remain open to international talent, including students, in the interest of the economy.

Signatories included: Simon Walker, Director General of the Institute of Directors; Carolyn Fairbairn Director General of Confederation of British Industry; Anthony Impey ,Chair of Skills and Apprenticeships at the Federation of Small Businesses; Dr Adam Marshall Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce; Sir Martin Sorrell, chief executive of WPP; Julian David, chief executive of techUK - to name but a few.

Recent Universities UK research pointed out, international students generate near £26bn for the economy, supporting more than 200,000 jobs, with 19 per cent of the student population in 2014-15 being international, totalling 437,000 students.

Even cross-party MPs on the Education Select Committee said: "The Government should remove overseas students from the net migration target to make it clear it wants talent to come to the UK. The Government's refusal to do so is putting at risk the higher education sector's share of the international student market. Removing international students from the target would be a simple way to offset some of the risks from leaving the EU."

Instead of taking this on board, the government's (Theresa May's) strategy has been to double down. Not only will overseas students remain in the immigration statistics, and thus within scope of the government's policy to reduce annual immigration, the party announced it will make it even harder for students to come here.

"We will toughen the visa requirement for students, to make sure that we maintain high standards," the manifesto reads. "We will expect students to leave the country at the end of their course, unless they meet new, higher requirements that allow them to work in Britain after their studies have concluded."

As it stands, the Prime Minister's misguided stance on the issue has already cost the UK £9bn across the last five years, according to a report out last year from Partheonon-EY, due to the UK's student visa policies. Even among senior cabinet ministers there was argument over the issue.

That is because this policy is flawed.

As Jonathan Portes, professor of economics and public policy at King's College London, said, May's plan to cut student immigration after Brexit adds "an additional level of madness" to her party's immigration policy, and will do lasting damage to the economy.

He added: "It's well known that every cabinet minister that has anything to do with this [student] policy thinks it's completely mad. This is a successful private export sector, which is exactly what we need. This is not an ideological thing, this is not even a party thing. It's just an obsession of the Prime Minister which has already damaged the economy and doubtless will continue to do so."

Higher Education is one of the UK's great exports and needs to be protected at minimum, preferentially bolstered. It is a prosperous sector, something the UK is particularly good at. The Prime Minister should be supporting, not challenging, it.

It is no wonder the University and College Union hit out at the Tories for their "unhelpful stance" that sends a "negative message that overseas talent is not welcome in the UK".

UCU general secretary Sally Hunt continued: "Instead of pulling up the drawbridge, the next government needs to ensure that the UK remains an attractive destination for academics and students from around the world. They should start by immediately guaranteeing the rights of EU nationals currently working and studying here rather than using them as a bargaining chip in Brexit negotiations."

Fortunately, Labour acknowledges international students are not permanent residents, so we will not include them in immigration numbers. As an internationalist party we will make it easier, not harder, for overseas students to learn and contribute in the UK, because Labour welcomes those who benefit and strengthen our education sector, wider economy and society.

Catherine West is Labour candidate for Hornsey & Wood Green and Foreign Affairs Spokesperson