SCOTLAND is suffering a “brain drain” of international talent due to damaging immigration rules imposed by the UK Government, one of the country’s leading universities has warned.
The University of Edinburgh said the repeal of a guaranteed post study work visa, which allowed students from non-EU countries to remain and work for two years after graduating, was constraining economic growth.
Some of the world’s brightest minds were being lured to other Western countries, it warned, adding that there had been a massive 85 per cent drop in the number of international students taking advantage of UK Government schemes to remain in Britain.
Meanwhile, South Lanarkshire College also attacked the policy as its cohort of international students had dropped from 150 to just one after the scheme, introduced north of the Border a decade ago and then extended UK-wide, was scrapped in 2012.
There are growing calls for the Home Office to sanction a more generous post-study visa system in Scotland after the move was backed by all Holyrood parties and most businesses.
In its submission to a Holyrood committee examining the issue, Edinburgh University said: “There is little doubt that the closure of the previous work study route has been one of the most damaging changes in UK immigration policy for the higher education sector and has impacted negatively on initial interest in the UK and the perception of the UK as a study destination.
“The current post study work routes for international students attract little interest due to their restrictive nature. The reality is that it leads to a ‘brain drain’ of highly skilled global talent from Scotland.
“As a nation therefore we are attracting, developing and then losing some of the brightest talent and minds in the world.
David Mundell, the Scottish Secretary, caused anger after claiming that current visa schemes were “excellent” and appearing to rule out allowing Scotland to develop its own approach. He has since said his comments were misinterpreted and that any firm proposals would be considered.
The University of Edinburgh said existing schemes did not meet the needs of educational establishments, business or wider society and called for non-EU graduates to be allowed to stay and work for at least 24 months.
It added: “The current routes serve to deter some international students from considering studying in Scotland in the first place as competitor nations offer a range of more attractive and competitive post study work schemes.
“Finally, the restrictive nature of the current work options and limited impact of them means that businesses are being deprived of a world class talent pool, trained and developed in Scotland.”
According to the submission, only 7,000 international students took advantage of UK Government schemes to remain in Britain, compared with 46,650 in 2011. Students are usually allowed four months to find a graduate job paying at least £20,800 or face having to leave he country, with the threshold potentially set to increase further to £23,000.
The Tories’ graduate entrepreneur visa was handed to fewer than 300 people from across Britain last year.
Universities Scotland, which represents the 19 higher education institutions, said countries like New Zealand, Canada, Australia and America were attracting more international students at the expense of Scotland, with significant drops in applications from key markets of India, Pakistan and Nigeria.
It added: “Scotland faces skill gaps in the fields of science, technology, engineering and maths and IT. We do not currently have enough home-grown talent to meet demand in the labour market. We can, should and are doing more to address these skills gaps within our Scottish-domiciled population but that does not address the challenges in the short-medium term. A post study work visa in Scotland would.”
A Home Office spokesman said: “The student migration system we inherited was open to widespread abuse. Too many people were using it to work in the UK with no intention of studying – in October 2010 it was found that 60 per cent of those in the UK on a post study visa were in unskilled work.
Published on :heraldscotland.com