Herald Scotland reports that Scotland will have one of the most restrictive visa regimes in the world for overseas students under Westminster Government plans to crack down on immigration, universities have warned.
Universities Scotland, which represents university principals, argues the proposals will make visa conditions here tougher than those of countries such as America, Canada, Australia and Germany – who are in direct competition for students.
Students from countries such as China and India pay significant fees to study in Scotland, providing a crucial source of additional income for universities, particularly at a time of public funding cuts.
The Coalition is proposing to tighten up the issuing of student visas as part of wider restrictions on immigration.
Following an initial announcement last year, the UK Borders Agency has now launched a public consultation on reform of the student immigration system. It closes at the end of January.
The agency’s consultation does not propose a specific cap on student numbers, but universities argue the changes are so restrictive they will put Scotland at a major competitive disadvantage.
In particular, they are concerned at proposals to limit employment rights, including work placements which are part of a degree, as well as employment between undergraduate and postgraduate study.
In addition, the measures would restrict the right of a student’s family to come to Scotland with them.
Universities Scotland has now written to all MPs calling for support for a separate immigration policy for Scotland. Alastair Sim, the organisation’s director, said the UKBA proposals posed a “big threat” to universities.
“At the same time as university funding is cut across the UK, and universities are told to increase their income from other sources, we face a set of proposals which will completely undermine our ability to succeed in what is already a highly competitive market,” he said.
“Scotland’s economic and demographic circumstances necessitate a different approach to England – a Scottish solution is needed.
The call was backed by Scottish colleges, who also stand to lose out if overseas student numbers are cut.
Richard Speight, vice-principal of City of Glasgow College, which recruits some 1500 overseas students every year bringing in £3.5 million in fees alone, said: “We have had very few students who abuse the system, with the vast majority returning to their country of origin with positive tales of Scotland and Scottish education.”
The income raised from international student fees was worth a total of £188m to all 20 of Scotland’s universities in 2007-08.
Taking the sector as a whole, international students account for approximately £16 of every £100 Scotland’s universities receive in income for teaching grants and contracts.
A 2009 report by Strathclyde University estimated that overseas students generate £516m of export earnings for Scotland on an annual basis, including off-campus expenditure of £231m.
A Home Office spokesman said: “The Government expects the student route to make its contribution towards reducing net migration.
“Too many students coming to study at below degree level have been coming here to live and work, rather than study. We need to stop this abuse and be more selective about who can come here and how long they can stay.”
In November, Culture Minister Fiona Hyslop gave her backing to a separate immigration policy for Scotland. Source: Herald Scotland.
With just two weeks left to take part in the Student Immigration System public consultation, which will help shape the future of international student visa rules in the UK, higher education providers are lobbying the government to drop plans to end the popular Tier 1 post study work visa.
The post study work aisa is a major selling point for universities marketing courses which will cost a student almost £30000 in fees alone.
At a time of the ‘double whammy’ combination of severe budget cuts and fee increases for resident students, universities need international students more than ever. In some cases, their very survival depends on it. The last thing they need is further restrictions and a message going out to the world that ‘UK Education PLC’ has gone into reverse gear.
You can respond online to the consultation at: http://www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk/student-consult-online which will take around 30 minutes to read and complete.
If you need any immigration advice or help with Sponsorship or Tier 2 Working Visas, Visa, ILR, Settlement, Citizenship, dependant visa or an appeal against a refusal please email: