The principals of three leading Scottish universities have called on the UK government to extend a pilot designed to encourage more foreign students to come to Britain by allowing them to stay for six months beyond the end of their course.
Universities across the UK were critical of a decision in 2012 to abolish the post-study work visa which allowed graduates to look for work for up to two years.
Theresa May, then Home Secretary, said the move was essential to crack down on bogus colleges and abuse of the immigration system by foreign students.
University of Glasgow principal Anton Muscatelli said: “We support the post-study work visa pilot but would have liked to have seen it extended beyond the south-east of England.
“The University of Glasgow is a global player with students from over 100 different countries enriching campus life and contributing to the local and national economy.
“We deeply regret that a previous visa scheme which permitted international students to stay for two years following graduation was scrapped in 2012.”
A spokeswoman for Universities Scotland said the organisation was “disappointed” by the scale of the pilot, and had made representations to the UK Government asking for the scheme to be expanded to Scotland.
Professors Ferdinand von Prondzynski, the principal of Robert Gordon University, and Sir Ian Diamond, the principal of the University of Aberdeen, wrote in a joint letter yesterday that they were “concerned” by the decision.
The principals said it was “disappointing that this will apply only to a small number of English universities”.
“Considering the political consensus in Scotland in favour of the reintroduction of such a visa, the exclusion of Scottish universities from this pilot scheme is a missed opportunity,” their letter states.
Debating the measure this week in the House of Lords, former First Minister Lord McConnell said the decision was “a slap in the face for Scottish higher education,” while fellow Labour peer Lord Foulkes said it was an “absolute disgrace” that would “help towards the break-up of the United Kingdom”.