UK immigration policies criticised by Scottish universities

11 Feb 2013 | Posted by Carl Thomas

Scottish university principals have criticised the government's UK immigration policies, claiming that they have had a negative influence on the number of overseas students choosing to study in Scotland.

Through the body Universities Scotland, the principals highlighted the fact that Westminster's "hard-line rhetoric" has resulted in a 25.8 per cent drop in Indian students in Scotland, a 24.9 per cent drop in Pakistani students and a 14.1 per cent drop in Nigerian students over the course of 2011/12.

Alistair Sim, director of the think tank, commented: "It is deeply worrying to see such steep declines in students from India, Nigeria and Pakistan studying in Scotland. These are important markets for Scottish higher education and countries with which we have long-standing academic relationship.

"It's very important that the message gets out to these countries that international students are welcome in Scotland. This is not the perception given out by hard-line rhetoric from parts of the UK government. It is telling that such a fall occurred only months after UKBA announced the end to its post-study work route for international students."

The news comes shortly after figures from UCAS, covering Britain as a whole, found that there had been an increase in the number of students from China and India who were applying to study in the UK. Chinese applicants rose by 9.9 per cent, while Indian applicants were up 19.3 per cent.

The discrepancy in the figures can be accounted for to some extent by the fact that one study looked at the UK as a whole while the other focused on Scotland. However, it does appear that the northern country is not getting as much attention from overseas students since the immigration laws were tightened. This could be a problem in the future given the economic importance of the higher education sector for Scotland.