Scottish Government
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Call to reinstate post study work visas

Issued on behalf of the post study work working group.

A broad coalition of business, education and student representatives yesterday called for the reintroduction of post study work visas in Scotland.

The Post Study Work working group set up by the Scottish Government in August 2014 has published a report calling for the post study work visa to be reinstated, recommending how such a scheme would operate, and asking the UK and Scottish governments to work together to secure its timely reintroduction.

The report demonstrates strong recognition from the business and education sectors that international students benefit Scotland’s economy, society and culture. It outlines overwhelming support from both sectors for allowing international students at Scottish universities and colleges to remain in Scotland to work for a defined period of time on completion of their studies.

Yesterday’s report includes the findings of a survey of Scottish business and education providers, which shows:

  • 90 per cent of all respondents are in favour of bringing back the post study work visa for international students (100 per cent of education providers and 85 per cent of businesses).
  • Business support for the reintroduction of the post study work visa rose to 94 per cent among those who had hired an international graduate under previous post study work schemes.
  • The majority of respondents across business and education providers, believe international students should be free to remain and work in Scotland for at least two years after graduation.
  • 70 per cent of respondents said that when a post study work visa comes to an end, individuals should have the ability to move onto a longer term visa.

The practicalities of the current UK visa system means the vast majority of international students have to leave Scotland after graduation.

To ensure Scottish businesses are able access more international talent, and Scotland reaps the full and broad benefits from this, the group’s report recommends that international students on higher education courses at Scotland’s colleges and universities should be able to apply for a new visa to remain in Scotland to work for two years after graduation. The group consider an absolute minimum of 12 months should be granted.

Business and education leaders seek new scheme for overseas students. 

Given Scotland’s particular demographic issues, the group has also recommended that time spent in Scotland under a post study work visa should count towards the five years residence required by workers to qualify for permanent stay in the UK (also known as Indefinite Leave to Remain). The report highlights good examples of competitor countries offering post study work visas for international students, including the United States, Canada and Australia, where post study work visas have been shown to have positive benefits for students, business, education and providers, and the wider economy.

The group’s report furthers the consensus across and recommendation from the Smith Commission for the UK and Scottish governments to “…work together to explore the possibility of introducing formal schemes to allow international higher education students graduating from Scottish further and higher education institutions to remain in Scotland and contribute to economic activity for a defined period of time.”

The group has called for the two governments to work together to achieve this and ensure the timely reintroduction of post study work visas. The group has highlighted how this would address a clear economic, skills and demographic need in Scotland, with equal educational, social and cultural benefits for businesses, education providers and communities, across Scotland.

Professor Pete Downes, Convener of Universities Scotland, which represents Scotland’s 19 higher education institutions, said:

“The case to allow international students to work in Scotland after successfully completing their studies is overwhelming and the benefits Scotland would gain from this extend far beyond our universities to enrich our society, culture and economy. As it stands, the UK’s immigration policy is anti-competitive, it is a deterrent to highly-skilled students and staff and it is hurting our universities.

“There has long been cross-party support for a change in policy in Scotland which was reinforced by the Smith Commission’s report and the work of the group sets out a sensible proposal, with wide stakeholder buy-in, that would work for Scotland within the UK. We urge the UK and Scottish Governments to sit down together post-election and make this into policy.”

Howard McKenzie, International Vocational Education Consultant and Fellow of the Institute of Directors, said:

“Scotland’s businesses need to employ qualified and skilled workers from whatever source and consider that post study work visas enable them to add to the diversity and effectiveness of their workforce.

“Unlike other areas of the UK, Scotland needs to attract talented skilled workers to fuel its economic growth and sustain its wealth creating businesses.”

Shona Struthers, Chief Executive of Colleges Scotland said:

“The abolition of post-study work visas by the UK government in 2012 has been an issue of concern for Scotland’s 26 colleges. These visas allowed recent graduates to work or set up businesses in the UK for 24 months, which retained skilled and educated graduates as part of the labour force.

“International students from around the world enrich the experience of Scottish learners by providing a more diverse pool of learners, with a broader global perspective. The cultural exchange benefits everyone as well as helping to promote Scotland.

“The re-introduction of post study work visas would attract more overseas students thus enhancing the college experience for all while retaining skilled graduates who contribute to our economy.

“We hope there is political goodwill to find a way to re-introduce the post study work visas as soon as practical after the general election.”

Notes To Editors

The group’s final report can be found below.

In August 2014, the Minister for Europe and International Development, Humza Yousaf, met with stakeholders from the business and education sectors to discuss the impact of the abolition of the post study work route and how such a route, if reintroduced, could operate again in Scotland. Following that meeting, the Minister asked that a Working Group be taken forward to consider, in detail, post study work opportunities in Scotland. The organisations represented were:

  • Institute of Directors (IOD)
  • ScotlandIS
  • Scottish Council for Development and Industry (SCDI)
  • Scottish Development International (SDI)
  • Skills Development Scotland (SDS)
  • Scottish Enterprise
  • Colleges Scotland
  • National Union of Student Scotland (NUS Scotland)
  • Scottish Universities International Group (SUIG)
  • Universities Scotland
  • UK Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA)
  • Scottish Government (as facilitators and secretariat)

In 2005, Scotland benefited from its own post study work scheme, the Fresh Talent: Working in Scotland Scheme (FT:WiSS). This scheme allowed international students from Scottish institutions to remain in Scotland for two years after graduation. The scheme was viewed across sectors as a success and evidence showed it was an effective means of attracting prospective international students to consider Scotland as a place to study. Home Office data demonstrates that between 2005 and 2008, 7620 non-EEA students were granted visa extensions under the system. 

The UK Government took the decision to mainstream the scheme across the UK by first launching the International Graduate Scheme (IGS) and then by mainstreaming both IGS and FT:WiSS into Tier 1 of the UK Government’s Points Based System. The post study work route was eventually abolished in 2012 by the UK Government and in face of strong opposition from business, students and education providers.

Post Study Work Working Group Report

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