Calls to class students as visitors, not migrants

Immigration rules ‘hinder’ overseas students’ bid for work

studentsScotland’s colleges and universities could struggle to attract overseas students because Britain’s complex immigration rules make it difficult for them to secure work.

A new report reveals that international students contribute a net £257 million to the Scottish economy but many are failing to receive the support they need after they have graduated.

The report from PwC says that 34,670 students from outside the European Union studied in Scotland last year, pumping £312m into the economy. Costs on public services such as the NHS reduced that figure by £55m.

“When it comes to attracting international (non-EU) students, the British immigration system is viewed as particularly complex, impacting international students’ overall experience of studying in the UK and making it difficult to secure work once they’ve graduated,” says the report.

Lindsey Paterson, higher education specialist at PwC in Scotland, said: “Our Scottish universities and colleges are competing in a global marketplace and it’s vital that Government supports them in attracting the brightest academic talent not just from here in the UK, but from the EU and further afield.

“International students not only help to broaden our own students’ vision and perspective in the classroom but have a major economic impact, through their fees and consumer spending.

“With a lot at stake, not just for the Scottish and UK economy but for the future growth and prosperity of our higher education establishments, it’s clear that more needs to be done to inform and improve immigration policies and targets.”

The figures complement recent research by PwC which found that 60% of international students including alumni are more likely to do business with the UK as a result of studying here and 92% would recommend studying in the UK to their friends and family.

The report also calls for the government to classify students as temporary visitors rather than migrants. It says Britain should follow the lead of other countries such as Canada and Australia in this regard.

“They are here for a short time only and by choosing to study in the UK, they are contributing to jobs, growth and cultural understanding in this country,” says the report.

It also calls on the goverment to create an environment where British-educated overseas talent is valued as an asset rather than treated as a liability.

“The government should reinstate the automatic option or make it easier for international students to work here for a few years after graduation; this would be good for UK universities, good for UK business, and good for Britain’s long-term relations with the global business community when these graduates return to their home countries.

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