The Scottish Affairs Committee today publishes its report on the proposed changes to the student visa system, which it warns could have a disproportionate impact on Scottish universities and the Scottish economy.
Given the size of the Higher Education sector in Scotland, and that the proposals are primarily designed to address a problem which is largely insignificant in Scotland, the high standard of Scottish education and the financial status of many institutions, could, unintentionally, be compromised and diminished.
The MPs warn that Scottish circumstances were not adequately taken into account when proposals, that will apply across the UK, were drawn up, and they call for action to adjust the UK criteria accordingly.
They believe that the visa proposals are likely to damage partnership working between universities and industry, as well as Scotland's attractiveness to multinational corporations.
International students choose to study in Scotland because of the opportunity to get a high standard of education and, often, the opportunity to gain valuable work experience in specialist subjects like petroleum engineering. A system that allows a certain number of international students to come to Scotland to study and learn valuable skills benefits the students, the universities and the Scottish economy. Changes to the immigration and visa system should not put this at risk.
The committee urges the government to address as a matter of urgency: the adverse impact of the proposals on the Scottish economy, the lack of focus in the proposals on bogus colleges rather than all, overwhelmingly reputable, institutions and the need to separately recognise students within our definition of immigrant.
Ian Davidson MP, Chair of the committee, said,
"The university and higher education sector contributes near £0.5 billion in export income to Scotland. The sector is extremely important to us with many institutions punching above their weight internationally, and the contribution of international students to the Scottish economy must not be underestimated.
The detrimental impact of the government’s proposals is therefore very worrying. Evidence from Scottish universities was clear: they will be adversely and unduly affected by these changes. This is particularly threatening for them at a time of great financial pressure.
We accept the need to control immigration, but believe the Government should be more focussed in its approach. We therefore believe that they must take action to address the concerns we have raised in our report, and we will continue to monitor these issues closely."