Urgent Talks On International Student Visas

30 October 2016, 07:12 | Updated: 30 October 2016, 07:14

Study Group

Scotland's International Development Minister is to hold talks with the Government at Westminster after UK ministers rejected calls for a more flexible post-study work visa system for international students north of the border.

Alasdair Allan said UK Immigration Minister Robert Goodwill has agreed to an "urgent'' meeting on the issue.

A House of Commons Scottish Affairs Committee inquiry concluded earlier this year that the removal in 2012 of a scheme that allowed overseas graduates to work for two years after completing their studies had made Scotland a less attractive destination to study.

The committee's report cited an 80% drop in non-EU students remaining in the UK after graduating and said change was necessary to address demographic challenges north of the border and fill skills gaps.

In a response published on Friday by Mr Goodwill, the UK Government said the previous system had been subject to ''widespread abuse'' which had ''damaged the reputation of our education system''.

``Applying different immigration rules to different parts of the UK would complicate the immigration system, harming its integrity, and cause difficulties for employers with a presence in more than one part of the UK,'' it concluded.

SNP MP Pete Wishart, who chairs the Scottish Affairs Committee, has said he is `"xtremely disappointed'' by the response.

Dr Allan described the decision not to reconsider a post-study work visa as "mystifying''.

He said: "We are dismayed that the UK Government has again chosen to ignore a wide range of interests and concerns in Scotland.

"There is consensus in Scotland - amongst business, education and every political party in Holyrood - that we need a return of a post-study route to allow talented students to remain and contribute to the Scottish economy.

"The evidence provided on this issue to the Scottish Affairs Committee was clear - and it is time that the UK Government started listening to Scotland and providing an immigration system that meets our needs.

"We have pressed the UK Government for a number of months to meet with us and discuss this issue further and I look forward to hearing what Mr Goodwill has to say to justify this extremely disappointing and mystifying decision.''

A UK Government spokeswoman said: "The UK continues to welcome genuine students coming to our world-class universities and we are determined to make sure that what we offer brings real benefits to this country.

"As the Home Secretary announced earlier this month, we will be consulting on what more we can do to strengthen the system to support the best universities - and those that stick to the rules - to attract the best talent.

"This is not about pulling up the drawbridge to reduce student numbers, but making sure that those students that come here, come to study.''