A large majority of Scots wish to see international students find jobs in the UK rather than return to their home countries upon graduation, a poll has found.
A ComRes survey commissioned by Universities UK found 83 per cent of respondents north of the border agreed it was better international students used their skills in the UK for a period of time in order to contribute to the economy, rather than returning home immediately.
Scotland is home to 29,210 international students across its 19 higher education institutes.
The removal of the post-study work visa in 2012, that allowed overseas graduates to work for two years after completing their studies, was found by a House of Commons select committee to have made Scottish universities “less attractive” to potential students from abroad.
The Scottish Government has since called for its reintroduction. Immigration matters remain reserved at Westminster.
The ComRes poll also found just 27% of Scottish adults “think of international students as immigrants”, and that 71% of Scots think international students “have a positive impact on local economies”.
Professor Andrea Nolan, convener of Universities of Scotland and principal of Napier University, said: “This confirms what we knew about the attitude of Scotland’s population towards international students. They clearly recognise the important role that international students play in Scottish society. They make a huge contribution to our universities and the wider Scottish economy, but they also enhance the university experience of our home-based students.
“The general public, like everyone in the higher education sector and business community can see the benefits from letting students from the across the world to enter our workforce. We spend years educating international students, why wouldn’t we want Scottish employers to receive the benefit of their skills for a few years?
“We should be making it as easy as possible for international students to come to our great institutions. Scotland’s universities have always been welcoming to international students and that’s the message prospective students throughout the world should be hearing.”
SNP MP Margaret Ferrier, a member of the Scottish Affairs Committee said: “The SNP have repeatedly called for the reintroduction of the post study work visa, which allowed international students to remain in Scotland and work after graduation. The call has been backed by businesses, colleges and universities, and has cross party support in the Scottish Parliament amongst every political party represented in Holyrood.
“Scotland has been challenged by the UK Government to grow its population and use what is available within its powers to develop our working age population. A post study work scheme is an easy and convenient way for Westminster to assist with this without any cost to itself.