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Student Immigration

Volume 621: debated on Monday 6 February 2017

10. What discussions she has had with the Home Secretary on the Government’s student immigration policy. (908595)

Department for Education officials meet regularly with their counterparts from the Home Office to discuss a range of issues including student immigration policy. Let me be clear that the Government value the contribution that international students make to the UK’s excellent higher education sector, both economically and culturally. That is why we have no plans to limit the number of genuine international students who can come here to study.

If the Government really value international students, I suggest they reappraise the need for a post-study work visa, which would allow students to come here, integrate into communities and bring value to their campuses and communities. When will the Government revisit that?

The UK has an excellent post-study work offer. Students can switch into a number of other visa routes to take up work after their studies. About 6,000 switched to a tier 2 skilled worker visa in 2015, and there is no cap on the number who may make that switch.

Higher education is one of the United Kingdom’s greatest exports, and the Government are promoting it brilliantly. Do the Government think that, as we move forward post-Brexit, we should look to take student numbers outside the immigration figures?

The key thing is that, whether or not they are in those figures, there is no limit on the number of international students who can come here to study. The UK is the best place in the world to get a higher education, and we are delighted that, for the last six years, over 170,000 international students have come to study in the UK.

24. Recent UCAS figures show that the number of EU students applying to Scottish universities has already fallen by 5%. The University of the West of Scotland has a new global reach strategy that aims to grow the number of international students attending UWS. Will the Minister explain to the university what it should do to achieve that goal despite the Brexit barriers the Government are putting in its way? (908609)

The UK is immensely successful at attracting international students. We are second in the world in terms of our market share, behind only the United States. We continue to extend a warm welcome, and we wish that more international students would come.

Scottish universities, of course, were not included in the post-study work pilot. The Scottish Parliament’s Europe committee has today published a report calling for Scotland to have a differing immigration system; this is the third parliamentary report calling for that. Will the Minister now urge the Home Secretary to listen and include Scottish institutions in the post-study work scheme?

Scottish institutions are successful in attracting international students, and they are also successful in seeing those students switch into post-study work. It is important to note that the number switching into work after study is increasing: it was at 6,000 last year—up from 5,000 the year before and 4,000 the year before that.

Being considered an international student post-Brexit will affect whether EU students choose to come to the UK, and that will have a major impact on university funding. What discussion has the Minister had with the Home Secretary on the immigration status of EU students post-Brexit?

These questions will be considered in the context of the broader discussions relating to our withdrawal from the European Union.