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Indian Students (Scottish Universities)

Volume 577: debated on Monday 10 March 2014

10. What estimate she has made of the number of students from India who have received visas to undertake studies at universities in Scotland in the latest period for which figures are available. (902912)

We do not have figures for the numbers of visas issued to Indian nationals for study at Scottish universities, but the latest higher education statistics show that India remains within the top five most common non-EU nationalities at universities in Scotland. We have cut abuse of student visas, but continue to attract the brightest and best students from around the world.

The Higher Education Statistics Agency says that Indian student numbers on higher education courses are down by 25% since 2011 alone and in Scotland they are down by 32%. What does the Minister think is the reason for that and why is Scotland so much worse off than the rest of the UK?

We have seen falls in student numbers from India, but we have also seen that in the USA and Australia, so a similar picture has been seen. However, visa applications from sponsored UK universities increased by 7% in 2013 and he may want to look at the figures for sponsored visa applications relating to the university of Glasgow, which are up 24%; for Heriot-Watt university, which are up 13% and for the university of Strathclyde, which are up 16%. We continue to attract the brightest and best and that is what our policy is doing.

Will the Minister outline to the House how the highly trusted sponsor scheme will allow the assessment of the ability and intention of students to complete their courses in this country?

As my hon. Friend has highlighted, sponsors do have responsibilities, and I responded to a previous question on the notifications they provide in relation to their students. We do need to keep a clear focus on those responsibilities and it is my view that where the Home Office is receiving applications from those universities, the failure rate is high and that does need to be examined further.

Of course the Minister knows the rises he pointed out in his answer to the hon. Member for Glasgow North West (John Robertson) are all down to the reciprocal arrangement with China. That figure is down 25% from Pakistan, and down 14% from Nigeria. This Government’s United Kingdom Independence party-based immigration policies are hurting our universities and our ability to attract students to Scotland. Why should our universities suffer because of the appalling race to the bottom between the Minister’s Government and UKIP?

It is important to welcome the fact that we have seen an increase from China of 6%. The figure is also up 3% from Malaysia and 15% from Hong Kong. That shows there is nothing intrinsic in our policies that is putting off high quality students. That is why we are focused on ensuring that we continue to attract the brightest and the best to the whole of the UK and Scotland, and there is nothing to suggest that our policies are having any negative impact on that.