MSPs urge return of work visas for international students

A HOLYROOD committee has backed calls for the reintroduction of post-study work visas for international students in Scotland.

A HOLYROOD committee has backed calls for the reintroduction of post-study work visas for international students in Scotland.

MSPs on the Devolution Committee said UK Government policy was “seriously restricting” the ability of universities and colleges to attract overseas students.

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Scottish institutions are falling behind global competitors in growing the number of international students, a parliamentary report concluded.

The number of overseas students studying in Scotland grew by between 1- 2 per cent last year, compared to 11 per cent in Canada, 10 per cent in the USA and Australia and 7 per cent in Germany.

The impact was being felt in the wider Scottish economy, with more than £250 million in lost income since 2012, the report said.

A scheme that allowed overseas graduates to work in Scotland for two years after they complete their studies was abolished in 2012 by the UK Government.

The Smith Commission on further devolution highlighted post-study work visas as an area for further consideration, while all the political parties at Holyrood have called for a rethink.

The committee unanimously recommended that UK Immigration Minister James Brokenshire come to Holyrood to outline what further evidence is needed to bring about a change of policy.

Convener Bruce Crawford MSP said: “A clear consensus has emerged from across the political parties in Scotland and from colleges, universities and business organisations, that the UK Government visa scheme is not delivering for Scotland.

“The committee considers there is robust evidence that identifies the decision to remove the post-study work visa scheme as a major factor in the Scottish education sector falling behind competitor countries in attracting international students.

“Without post-study work opportunities our higher and further education institutions are being disadvantaged.

“As a direct result of this policy, domestic business is being deprived of world-class talent, that’s trained and developed in Scotland. Given the demographic profile of Scotland, that’s a position we can ill-afford.

“We need talented graduates to be able to stay on in Scotland so that we can grow our economy and grow our economically active population.”

Mr Crawford said the issue highlighted the need for good working relationships between the Scottish and UK Governments.