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Post-study Work Visas

Volume 594: debated on Monday 23 March 2015

13. What discussions she has had with the Secretary of State for Scotland on the potential introduction of a scheme to allow international students graduating from Scottish further and higher education institutions to remain in Scotland to work for a defined period of time. (908240)

My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary meets colleagues regularly for discussions on a range of issues, including how we can continue to attract the brightest and best to study here while bearing down on abuse.

The recommendation comes as part of the Smith agreement. It recognises that the higher education sector is a multi-billion pound industry, and Edinburgh university is one of the most successful participants in that. More than 10,000 foreign students are now studying at Edinburgh, generating some of the highest quality research in the UK. Does the Minister agree that keeping more of those excellent students in the UK while their research is commercialised would be of enormous benefit, not just to the Scottish economy but to the UK as a whole?

My hon. Friend will know that the Russell Group of universities, of which Edinburgh is a member, has seen a 30% increase in the number of applications from overseas students since 2010, showing that studying in the United Kingdom is an attractive offer to students. There is no cap on the number of students who can stay in the UK after completing their degree, provided they have a graduate-level job, get an internship or become a graduate entrepreneur.

The Minister will have seen the Scottish Government’s post-study work working group, which recommends that a post-work study visa is reinstated for a wide range of people, including businesses, education and student representatives. Will the Minister consider that or will she ignore it again? What can the Scottish people do to progress that agenda and ensure that our economy and higher education institutions benefit?

What the Scottish people can do is clear: stay part of the Union. I repeat that there is no cap on the number of graduates who can stay on after their studies, provided they have a graduate job, an internship or a graduate entrepreneurship.

The Minister will be aware of the reduction in the number of students from the Indian subcontinent. One of the major reasons for that is that they are unable to remain in the United Kingdom for a few years to work and to pay off their fees. This policy, therefore, discriminates against those who come from poorer nations, rather than those from richer families.

I repeat that since 2010 there has been an increase in the number of visa applications from overseas students. It is difficult to say what the drivers are for our seeing more students from some countries and fewer from others. For example, we are seeing a significant increase in the number of students from China, which indicates that it is not the reforms that are stopping people coming.