PLANS to force foreign students to return home after they graduate will damage Scotland’s economy and universities, the Scottish Government has warned.
Hardline proposals to cut immigration being considered by Conservative Home Secretary Theresa May would see non-European Union students have to go home to apply for a work visa if they wanted to continue to live in the UK after university.
Mrs May is understood to want a future Tory UK government to “move towards zero net student migration” by sending home those who come to Britain on student visas.
But the idea of deporting students was branded “wrong for Scotland” by the Scottish Government and described as “ludicrous” by SNP MSP Christian Allard, who said it would mean a loss of expertise to the Scottish economy.
A source close to the Home Secretary said: “Making sure immigrants leave Britain at the end of their visa is as important a part of running a fair and efficient immigration system as controlling who comes here in the first place.
CONNECT WITH THE SCOTSMAN
• Subscribe to our daily newsletter (requires registration) and get the latest news, sport and business headlines delivered to your inbox every morning
“Theresa is pressing for the next Conservative manifesto to contain a policy that will make sure that anybody coming here on a student visa will have to leave the country in order to apply for a new visa of any kind.
“She wants to be able to fine colleges and universities with low departure rates and deprive the worst of them of their right to sponsor foreign students.”
Under current rules, most students switch easily to a work visa from within the UK rather than have to leave the country and then come back.
Last night, the Scottish Government warned that forcing foreign students from outside the EU to go home would have damaging effects north of the Border. “A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The UK government’s immigration policies remain wrong for Scotland and will continue to damage our universities and the Scottish economy.
Mr Allard said: “These ludicrous plans are economically illiterate as well as socially divisive.”
Mrs May has repeatedly clashed with Liberal Democrat Business Secretary Vince Cable – whose department has responsibility for universities in England – about foreign students.
Mr Cable has warned about tough rhetoric on immigration putting off students from countries including India from attending UK institutions and the Liberal Democrats would be highly unlikely to support any further tightening of the rules.
A senior Lib Dem source said her plan made “zero economic sense” and could deprive the UK of highly skilled graduates.
“Such a blunt instrument would not get our support,” the source said. “The idea that you have people from abroad studying in this country and they become engineers or scientists of huge practical value to the economy, and rather than have them stay here you immediately turf them out makes zero economic sense.”
Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said: “Theresa May is flailing around with her immigration policy in chaos.
“Her net migration target is in tatters, illegal immigration and exploitation are getting worse, she’s given citizenship to serious criminals and the only answer she can come up with is a few more restrictions on the overseas university students who bring billions of investment into Britain.”
SCOTSMAN TABLET AND IPHONE APPS