The Student Immigration System in Scotland

Written evidence submitted by NUS Scotland

Introduction

1. NUS Scotland is a federation of over 60 local student organisations in Scotland, representing over 500,000 students, which are affiliated to the National Union of Students of the United Kingdom (NUS UK). NUS Scotland is an autonomous, but integral, part of the National Union of Students. The students’ associations in membership of NUS Scotland account for 85% of students in higher education and over 95% of students in further education in Scotland.

2. Students’ associations affiliated to NUS retain autonomy over all policy areas, and may choose to make individual students’ association submissions based on local policy. NUS Scotland operates a democratic forum for policy and debate on national issues affecting students, and NUS Scotland’s role is to reflect the collective position.

3. NUS Scotland works with our members to:

· Promote, defend and extend the rights of students in Scotland

· Develop and champion strong students associations

We aim to develop and support the experiences of students in Scotland and work with our members to improve students’ associations across the country.

Summary

4. NUS Scotland believes international students are valuable both culturally and financially to Scottish education institutions and the wider Scottish economy.  With over 24,000 non-EU students currently in Scotland, forming 11% of the student population, contributing £300 million in fee income and £0.5 billion to the wider Scottish economy, measures to reduce their numbers will clearly have a negative impact both on Scotland and on its universities and colleges.

5. NUS Scotland’s international student members have made it very clear that the proposed measures will deter genuine, high quality students from applying to come to Scotland. Rather than seeking a blanket restriction on the number of international students, NUS Scotland considers it more appropriate to target the minority of "bogus" colleges and students who are non-compliant under the current system. In addition to these financial and cultural factors, Scottish exemption from the proposed UKBA changes is essential if Scotland is to address its longer term population growth target necessary to provide sustainable economic growth.

Scottish-specific factors and the need for regional flexibility

6. NUS Scotland is clear that the situation in relation to population and demographics is different in Scotland than other parts of the United Kingdom. In particular Scotland's population is projected to age more rapidly than the other countries in the UK, whilst the growth rate of the working age population is projected to be considerably lower in Scotland over the next 25 years. [1] A limit on net non-EEA migration to bring it to the level of "tens of thousands a year" is likely to have a detrimental impact on achieving the population target and sustainable economic growth.

7. Scotland has a population growth target to tackle its projected declining and ageing population. The main contribution to overall population growth over the target period is projected to come from net migration to Scotland – a key aim of the Fresh Talent scheme.

8. Scottish exclusion from the proposed UKBA immigration changes is required due to the implications of the proposed cap for Scotland, in particular on the Scottish Government's ability to grow Scotland's population and achieve sustainable economic growth.

9. A net reduction in international student numbers will have a greater impact on the Scottish economy as the revenue generated from international students is currently greater in Scotland than in the rest of the UK. Therefore regional flexibility is essential.

10. The consultation does not address at any stage Scottish-specific types of qualifications such as HNCs and HNDs and the impact that this may have on international students taking up vocational qualifications.

11. In regards to the UKBA proposal to show evidence of progression to study a new course, this fails to take into account, and has the potential to damage, Scotland’s reputation for flexibility through the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF).

12. NUS Scotland believes that international students provide local regions with much needed labour and help close skills gaps. As such, regional exemption of more restrictive employment conditions in areas with demand for part-time labour and specific skill sets would be strongly encouraged.

13. International student responses collated from our membership show that the overwhelming majority considered the post-study work visa critical to their decision to study in Scotland. Consequently, they would have been discouraged from applying to Scottish higher education institutions if this opportunity did not exist. If implemented, the proposal to remove PSW has the potential to seriously damage Scotland’s world-class status. This is especially pertinent given that other competitor countries such as Canada, New Zealand and Australia are making the visa process easier and cheaper. [2]

14. Scotland produces 1.2% of all new knowledge and is second in the world in terms of impact of its research. [3] The fact that Scotland punches above its weight in terms of research and in terms of international league tables is in no small part down to the contribution in research and teaching that international students and staff make to Scotland.

March 2011


[1] Memorandum submitted by the Scottish Minister for Culture and External Affairs, http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201011/cmselect/cmhaff/361/361wa03.htm

[2] Scottish Universities International Group Intelligence Report (SUIG, March 2011)

[3] Scotland Europa R&D Position Paper (February, 2011)