A UK Government decision to deprive Scotland’s economy of foreign talent amid crippling skills shortages “beggars belief”, say Scottish firms.
Theresa May’s administration rejected calls from north of the border for the return of the post-study work visa programme, saying the system was being abused. But the Scottish Chambers of Commerce branded that claim “spurious” as they condemned the decision for “doing Scotland a major disservice”.
Universities in Tayside and Fife joined in the chorus of discontent, with Dundee University saying it undermines what they are trying to achieve.
Liz Cameron, chief executive of SCC, said: “At a time when the Scottish economy is facing serious challenges in the shape of a low growth rate and high levels of skills shortages, all in the face of a redefinition of our relationship with the European Union, it simply beggars belief that the UK Government is closing the door on an opportunity for talented international people to contribute to our economy.”
The Scottish Affairs Committee said the removal of the visa scheme in 2012 made Scotland a less attractive place to study.
The UK Government responded saying there are other visa options available for international students, but abuse of the old scheme, which allowed some overseas students to stay on after completing their studies, had “damaged the reputation of our education system”.
A Dundee University spokeswoman said: “We share the widespread disappointment in this outcome which is not helpful to our own aims, and those of the higher education sector in Scotland, to bring the best international talent to Dundee and Scotland.”
A spokesman for St Andrews University said: “We have argued strenuously against making it more difficult for (international students) to work in the UK after graduation and will continue to make that case.”
Alasdair Allan, the minister for international development and Europe, said the Scottish Government is “dismayed” by the decision.
A UK Government spokeswoman said they are consulting on how to make help universities attract the best international talent.
“The UK continues to welcome genuine students coming to our world-class universities and we are determined to make sure that what we offer brings real benefits to this country,” she added.
“This is not about pulling up the drawbridge to reduce student numbers, but making sure that those students that come here, come to study.”