The Post Study Work group, a broad coalition of business, education and student representatives, was put together by the Scottish government last summer and published its report this week.
It indicates strong recognition from the business and education sectors that international students benefit Scotland’s economy, society and culture (see box), and outlines overwhelming support for allowing international students at Scottish universities and colleges to remain in the country to work.
The report says the post-study work route, closed by the UK government in 2012 amid opposition from the Scottish government, should be reinstated, and that Scotland’s international students should once again be able to apply for a two-year work visa on completing their studies. An “absolute minimum” of a 12-month visa should be available, the group says.
The report goes on to recommend that time spent in Scotland under a post-study work visa should count towards the five years of residency required to qualify for permanent stay in the UK, or “indefinite leave to remain”.
Pete Downes, convener of Universities Scotland and principal of the University of Dundee, said the case to allow international students to work in Scotland was “overwhelming”, and described the UK’s current immigration policy as “anti-competitive” and “a deterrent to highly skilled students and staff” that is “hurting our universities”.
“There has long been cross-party support for a change in policy in Scotland which was reinforced by the Smith Commission’s report [on new powers for Scotland], and the work of the group sets out a sensible proposal,” he said, adding that the UK and Scottish governments should “sit down together post-election” to implement changes.
Humza Yousaf, the Scottish government’s minister for Europe and international development, said the reintroduction of post-study visas was something the Scottish government had “repeatedly called for”.
“The report makes clear the benefits that our education institutions, communities and economy enjoyed when previous post-study work routes operated in Scotland, and the negative impact we’ve seen since they were closed by the UK government in 2012,” he said.
“Immigration policy is currently too heavily influenced by the priorities of the South East of England, based on the values of the current UK government and driven by a desire to reduce the numbers of incoming migrants, which does not recognise Scotland’s needs and does not serve our economic or societal interests.”
Last month, the cross-party All Party Parliamentary Group on Migration urged the UK government to allow overseas students to stay in the UK after graduation to work, and described current rules as “jeopardising Britain’s position in the global race for talent”.
Findings from the Post Study Work working group survey of Scottish business and education providers:
- 90 per cent of all respondents are in favour of bringing back the post-study work visa for international students (100 per cent of education providers, 85 per cent of businesses)
- Business support for the reintroduction of the post-study work visa rose to 94 per cent among those who had hired an international graduate under previous post-study work schemes
- The majority of respondents believe international students should be free to remain and work in Scotland for at least two years after graduation
- 70 per cent of respondents say that when a post-study work visa comes to an end, individuals should have the ability to move on to a longer-term visa.
Source: Post Study Work working group report to Scottish ministers. Sample: 213