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Gates bemoans US visa restrictions

Lack of foreign computing students a 'disaster'

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Bill Gates is worried that US visa restrictions, imposed after the 11 September attacks, are starting to damage the US software industry.

Speaking at the World Economic Forum at Davos in Switzerland, the Microsoft chairman described the fall in visiting foreign computing students as a "disaster". After September 11, the US government moved to restrict the number of students from certain countries. Applicants had to pay more and wait longer for visas.

Gates, quoted in the FT, said: "“There has been a 35 per cent drop in Asians coming to our computer science departments. It really is a very bad thing for a very key area.” The US's position as "global IQ magnet of the world" was threatened by the fall in student numbers, he warned.

Gates also noted the difference in what people choose to study in developing and developed countries. In India, 40 per cent of students take engineering degrees, against just four per cent in the US.

US universities spoke out last year - they say delays to approve visas are leading students to pursue their studies elsewhere. Yale University this year blamed complicated visa procedures for the 9.5 per cent fall in foreign post-graduate applicants. ®

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