The Student Immigration System in Scotland

Written evidence submitted by the University of Strathclyde


The request for submissions to the Scottish Affairs Committee came out on March 7 th with a deadline of March 25 th , two days after the Government announced changes to the student route.

Universities have had just two days to digest this information and adjust their response to this inquiry. The full analysis of all of the changes have not been fully developed therefore some of the responses to the questions posed by the inquiry may change once we have had more guidance from UKBA.

· How the proposal to reduce the number of international students might impact upon Scotland ;

Scotland is a small country which has always had a global outlook and attracting students to our schools, colleges and universities contributes to diversity.

The proposals set out on March 22 nd reinforce the need to manage migration and we are relieved that the focus on controlling numbers will be on private FE providers , not universities or state colleges .

· The impact, if any, that the proposals might have on universities in Scotland;

All universities rely on the flow of international students to their campuses as a way of diversifying the student body, developing strong links with overseas partners and, of course, enhancing income.

All of these benefits are under threat as aspects of the proposals may serve to make Scotland seem less friendly, less welcoming and less flexible.

The UK is not alone in trying to safeguard its share of the overseas student market and our competitors are poised to take advantage of any changes which make the UK less attractive.

Currently Strathclyde generates income from our overseas activities in excess of £26 million. This year, for the first time, we have seen a slight decrease in intake which has resulted in a budget deficit of approximately £2 million. We know that students, in particular from India, expect to be able to work once they graduate and we full expect numbers to decline now that PSW is due to be removed from April 2012.

· The impact, if any, that the proposals might have on the wider economy in Scotland;

While it is difficult to predict the full economic impact of the loss of income from overseas students it is safe to assume that jobs will be los t. In higher education we rely on overseas fees to bridge the gap created due to the reduction in funding from the government. It will not take long for the impact of reduced overseas fees income to be felt in the wider community. As reported by the Higher Education Policy Institute in 2007, the presence of international students in the UK is a form of export from the UK (funds for tuition and living costs originate from outside the UK).This injection into the economy, circulates leading to an overall effect greater than the initial injection. Universities UK have also reported on this in their 2006 paper, 'The economic impact of UK higher education institutions' which used a multiplier of 1.5.’

If recruitment drops from markets like India, and we expect this will happen, the estimated drop in income is estimated at £2,400,000. The impact on the wider economy, using a multiplier 1.5, will be even greater .

· How the proposals might impact differently upon international students wishing to study on courses in Scotland below degree level, at degree level and post-graduate level;

Strathclyde does not offer sub-degree level courses but we do attract students from colleges and foundation programmes. In some subject areas this can be a high percentage of the undergraduate intake.

Strathclyde has plans to increase ou r postgraduate community and mu ch of this growth will come from overseas. Some courses have high percentages of international students and many would not run if the number of enrolments dropped below a particular level. These plan s are now seriously under threat as many postgraduate students expect to be able to gain some work experience before returning home and it is likey they will apply to universities in Australia/US/Canada where employment during and after study is more flexible.

In relation to research students, who often have dependants, the announcement on March 2 2 nd states that only sponsored students will be eligible to bring other famlily members with them to the UK and this will inhibit greatly the recruitm ent of non-sponsored, privately funded students with dependants.

· How the proposals in the consultation on post study work might impact upon Scotland;

The closure of Post Study Work will impact negatively on Scotland in particular, as Scotland has a longer history of offering the opportunity for employment after study through the Fresh Talent: Working in Scotland Scheme, and also wider access to work schemes, as they have been open to students qualifying with a Higher National Diploma in Scotland. We can expect to see a considerable drop in student recruitment from certain markets where the uptake of Post Study Work is high (India in particular).

Whilst the concession to allow students to switch to Tier 2 employment still allows graduates to access the UK labour market, those able to take up this opportunity will be severely restricted; students will have to finish their studies on time and secure a job offer from an employer who is a Tier 2 sponsor within the 4 month period of validity of their student visa which is added on to the end of their course. This may not work with deadlines for graduate trainee schemes. Students who take longer to finish their course, or have to resit exams may find it difficult to secure employment before their visa expires. Strathclyde would urge the Scottish Government to seek information on the number and scope of employers who are Tier 2 employers in Scotland, as we expect many SME’s are not, and therefore will not be able to employ new graduates.

The concession for switching into Tier 2 does not allow students to bring dependants over unless they are here already as Tier 4 dependants. Having spoken to many students about bringing spouses over, we know that some students wait until they have finished their studies and have applied for Post Study Work (and therefore earning) before they bring spouses/families over..

Restricting access to working visas contradicts the Scottish Governments policy of encouraging migration to Scotland.

· The level of compliance with the current system and

If the Scottish Affairs Committee is looking for information on the level of compliance with regulations, universities are not in a position to answer these questions, as UKBA deal with compliance issues.

We know that UKBA account managers in Scotland are not concerned with compliance issues with university students. They are more concerned with "bogus colleges" and are dealing with them accordingly.

The University is not in a position to comment on compliance but we note, from the UKBA paper published March 22 nd, that Tier 4 Visa arrests had increased to 30 a month, or 120 per year. Given the number of visas issued, 254,000, this is less than 0. 1%.

The University accepts fully the role it has to play in working with UKBA to reduce abuse of the student route and as a highly trusted sponsor we take our responsibilities very seriously. We welcome the Government’s plans to streamline the visa process for low risk applicants to HTS.

o 1) the number of those applying to study

The University of Strathclyde receives almost approximately 10,000 applications per year from international students. Of that number less than 12 00 CAS state ments are issued as we insist on a deposit before the CAS is issued.

o 2) the number of dependants accompanying students

The University does not capture information on dependants.

o 3) the rules governing work entitlement for students and dependants

The University welcomes the announcement which confirms that work entitlement for students will remain at 20 hours per week. We also welcome the announcement that dependants will also be able to work, albeit the numbers of students in this category is likely to drop as this applies only to sponsored students.

o 4) the rules governing work entitlement after a course has finished, in Scotland; and

The University welcomes the amendments to facilitate placement learning within courses of study .

U nder the new PSW route we see particular difficulties for masters students whose courses are so concentrated that they often leave job search to later on in their courses.  They will have to start graduate job search with Tier 2 employers within a couple of weeks of arrival in the UK.

Graduates from Masters courses that complete late summer or autumn will have missed the graduate training programme intake (typically these employers have application closing dates mid December to mid February and job start dates of August and September. 

The new 4 month regulation will essentially mean they cannot remain to get entry to these schemes for the summer after graduating.

The majority of Tier 2 employers have their Headquarters in England so those who are successful in getting jobs are not likely to be contributing to Scottish Government policy to keep international grads in Scotland.

If Scotland is to be seen as a global player we need to have an international workforce and the inability of SMEs to recruit will negatively affect that.

A high percentage (if not vast majority) of international students have ambitions to work in UK for at least a few years so coming here to study is intrinsically linked with emplo yment and career prospects.  The new PSW regulations are likely to reduce numbers of applicants to our HE courses because of that alone.  Employers in their home countries also expect UK business experience to be on CVs for the best jobs there.  HEIs in Scotland will therefore have to very clearly define the benefits of our degrees as ‘stand alone’ qualifications and also to identify what the benefits to their home countries will be.  Otherwise international students will not see the point of studying here, returning and discovering that those who graduated in home country got involved with employers there as part of their degrees and accessed the graduate job opportunities as a result.  In that scenario it’s possible that an international education could become a disadvantage.

· Alternative proposals, not included in the Student Immigration System consultation, which might control the number of international students entering Scotland more effectively.

The announcement does say there will be exceptions to the 5 year limit, as some courses take longer than that. Scottish undergraduate degrees are not mentio ned in this specifically, but we would hope that this very important issue will be taken into consideration by the Scottish Affairs Committee.

March 2011