Universities in Scotland damaged by Westminster ‘xenophobia’

Scotland’s universities are being damaged by a Westminster immigration policy that is “driven by Ukip and a nasty xenophobia”

January 29, 2014

That is the view of Michael Russell, the Scottish education secretary in the SNP government, who outlined his opposition to UK immigration policy in a speech in Edinburgh today.

Both he and Alistair Carmichael, the Scottish secretary in the Westminster government, spoke at the conference on “Higher Education, the Devolution Settlement and the Referendum on Independence”, organised by the Economic and Social Research Council.

“The debate south of the border is being driven by Ukip and by a nasty xenophobia which certainly revolts me and I think revolts many others,” Mr Russell said, adding that overseas students were treated as “subversive” or “freeloaders” by UK policy.

He pointed to Higher Education Statistics Agency figures which “show that since the Coalition came to power the number of students from India studying at Scottish universities has halved. In 2010-11 there were 3,290 students from India. The latest figures for 2012-13 show just 1,665.

“This is daft and self-defeating.”

Making his pitch ahead of the independence referendum in September, he said it was “essential” that Scotland was able to set its own policies on migration and citizenship.

“Scotland needs to be seen as a welcoming place, open for academic and research business and more than willing to see those of talent staying if they wish to build lives and careers. That cannot happen without independence.”

He added: “If autonomy is good for higher education, might it also be good for this country?”

However, Mr Carmichael attacked the “temerity” of Mr Russell to claim the UK immigration policy was “xenophobic” given Scottish universities would continue to charge students from the rest of the UK tuition fees after independence.

“Mike Russell has nothing to offer higher education in his vision of independence,” he said.

He also warned the Scottish government that leaving the UK means leaving the UK research councils and the funding they provide.

“National governments fund national research. There is no international precedent for sharing or replicating a system on the scale of the current UK funding streams across international borders. And that’s what a vote for independence this September would mean,” he said.

“Why would a state we had just chosen to leave continue to share funding and expertise?”


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Reader's comments (1)

Listening to Mr Russell’s rant which is typical of SNP politicians, some facts are in order.. A couple of years ago Mr Russell was exhorting Scottish university chiefs to recruit more non-EU students, and fee-paying English students, when the university chiefs pointed out to him the real funding gap as Scottish student s do not pay university fees. Indeed, the then newly elected Scottish Labour Party leader suggested that serious consideration be given to Scottish university students paying university fees. The St Andrews Principal was in favour of fees considering that her university attracts a large number of fee-paying American and English students. Hence, he expects that funding gap to be closed by more non-EU (and fee-paying English students) students, and that is the truth behind his rant. Immigration numbers in the context of Scottish university student recruitment matters to England, as non-EU students from Scottish universities start trawling for jobs in London and elsewhere in England, the day after they complete their degree courses in Scottish universities. Their numbers also matter because a large number of Scotland-born university graduates move to England looking for jobs. If one wants to see xenophobia of Scottish kind, one should attend SNP annual conferences. Now, about Mr Russell's message : "t is essential that Scotland is able to set our own policies on migration and citizenship". Scots in Scotland are free to vote YES and become independent. Given the polls predicting NO, SNP politicians should think about why a large number of their compatriots want to say NO. If Scots vote to go free, then as EU students, English students do not have to pay fees to attend Scottish universities; Mr Russell should say clearly how he can prevent closure of courses and even departments in Scottish universities, which are benefiting from fee-paying English students? Further, Scottish universities’ agents in their recruitment drive in non-EU countries dangle the carrot to students there saying that entry to Scotland and Scottish universities does allow these students to work in England (I have seen many of them-both undergraduate and post graduates, working in North of England during week ends and vocation periods. Many Asian students have relatives in England) make them eligible to apply for visas to work in England after their course completion. When Scotland becomes Independent, these students cannot move to England freely after their studies.

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