Widen skilled migration criteria, say universities

Skilled migration can't just be for bankers, universities say.

Downing Street dismissed Philip Hammond's suggestion that students be removed from migration quotas
Downing Street dismissed Philip Hammond's suggestion that students be removed from migration quotas

Proposals to exempt financial services from post-Brexit immigration controls must be extended to key sectors of the Scottish economy including universities, leading figures have demanded.

Ahead of the first substantive Brexit talks tomorrow between the UK and devolved governments, Scotland’s universities said the case for protecting the flow of students and researchers from the EU was “overwhelming” and warned any exemption could not be limited to bankers and financiers.

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That call has been backed by leading employers, with the executive director of the Institute of Directors (IoD) Scotland saying that immigration controls had to based on the needs of different sectors and regions.

Their demands follow a week of confusion on immigration and student numbers, with Downing Street dismissing suggestions from Chancellor Philip Hammond that students could be taken out of net migration targets.

Hammond told the Treasury Select Committee on Wednesday that post-Brexit immigration controls may not apply to skilled workers, and has previously emphasised his desire to allow financial services firms to recruit freely from Europe.

“The case for positive change to parts of current immigration policy is overwhelming,” Universities Scotland convener Professor Andrea Nolan told Scotland on Sunday.

“Scotland has an unarguable economic and demographic need for more high-skilled talent. Employers, across all sectors, have highly-skilled holes in their businesses that cannot be met, on the scale needed, by UK graduates alone.”

He added: “The latest from the Treasury suggests a possible deal allowing financial services in the City to continue to access the high skills it needs. Any deal must be extended beyond one city and one sector.”