Scotland’s Universities enjoy a fantastic reputation around the world, with four institutions in The Times Top 200 list and a proud history of innovation and world leading research. There should really be no problem in attracting international students to come and study here and indeed more than 94 per cent of international students believe Scotland is a “good place to be”.
However, Scotland’s higher education sector and the reputation of our universities are now being put at risk by the UK Government’s increasingly hostile rhetoric and draconian policies towards international students – including a ‘crack-down’ on student migration and the loss of the post-study work visa. Other countries are taking advantage and attracting students that would once have come here – partly by offering the type of post-study work visa that the Tories have scrapped.
All of the evidence suggests that international students contribute immensely to Scotland’s economy, society and culture – and if we can encourage some of them to stay, that also helps to tackle some of the demographic challenges the country faces. It’s extremely disappointing that the Tories have chosen to target these students as part of their obsession with meeting a net migration target that’s rightly been described as unworkable and undeliverable.
In my role as Spokesperson for Immigration, Asylum and Border Control I’ve continued to make the case for the reintroduction of the post-study work visa in Scotland. In doing so, I’ve joined a range of voices speaking out in favour of a this scheme, including the Scottish Government; Universities Scotland; NUS Scotland; the STUC and all of Scotland’s political parties!
The case for post-study work is simply overwhelming and along with my colleagues at Westminster – particularly those on the Scottish Affairs Committee – we have been able to express the sense of frustration that the Tories ‘one size fits all’ approach to immigration has created in Scotland and the urgent need for change. But on this hugely important issue the UK government just isn’t listening to Scotland – they have continued to persist with the same tired arguments which just don’t stack up under scrutiny.
So it’s no wonder that the range of voices arguing that Scotland should have the powers to design its own immigration policy is growing – and one of the top priorities when that happens will be the post study work visa, attracting top international talent to our Universities, and encouraging them to stay here to contribute afterwards.
– Stuart McDonald is SNP MP for Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East and Westminster Spokesperson for Immigration, Asylum and Border Control.