Gillian Martin MSP has urged the UK government to address the concerns of Scotland’s Higher Education sector.
The call comes after a witness before the Economy, Jobs and Fair Work Committee at Holyrood said Tory proposals to crackdown further on the number of international students allowed to study in the UK would be “financially fatal” to universities in Scotland.
When questioned by Aberdeenshire East MSP Gillian Martin, Alastair Sim, Director of Universities Scotland, said that the lack of post-study work visas in Scotland already disadvantaged the nation’s nineteen higher education institutions.
Mr Sim feared that the Tory government might make things even worse. He warned that limiting further the number of students allowed to come here would do more than financial harm Scotland’s universities, it would limit the UK’s network of “soft power” around the globe.
Mr Sim said: “The suggestions in Amber Rudd’s speech to the Conservative Party Conference that there be a further crackdown on international student numbers and that there would be a restriction to only certain institutions or certain courses in terms of being able to recruit international students would be financially fatal.”
“We are just building an intrinsic perversity into the system by actually trying to make it more difficult for us to go out and internationalise and attract the talent that contributes so much academically and culturally and economically. They’re people who come here, study, then take their skills to the economy and form this wonderful network of soft power across the world.”
Ms Martin said: “Once again a prominent representative of the higher education sector has made it clear that students and researchers from beyond the UK are critical to the success of not only our Higher Education Sector but our economy as a whole.
“The UK government must do more to help our Higher Education Sector following the Brexit vote, which has left it in a potentially vulnerable financial position. Our universities are among our most valuable assets and must be allowed to flourish, and our economy must be able to benefit from the skills learned by students, regardless of where they were born.
“The UK government has it in its gift to provide Higher Education with the levers to address some of their concerns with regard to their international staff and student body. The longer they leave questions around free movement, and work visas unanswered, the more damage is done.”