SNP slams Tories over foreign student work ban

Tommy Sheppard says the move is 'sordid'. Picture: Neil Hanna
Tommy Sheppard says the move is 'sordid'. Picture: Neil Hanna
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NEW immigration rules which ban international students from working during their studies have been condemned by a city MP as a “grubby little measure” which is pandering to prejudice.

From next month, students from outside the EU who come to study at publicly-funded further education colleges will lose the right to work for up to ten hours a week as part of a new Westminster crackdown on visa fraud.

This is a shabby device from a government which has taken mean-spiritedness to new heights

Tommy Sheppard

Ministers say the move is designed to stop student visas being used as a “back door” to the British jobs market.

But Edinburgh East SNP MSP Tommy Sheppard said: “This is a shabby and pathetic device from a government which has taken mean-spiritedness to new heights.

“Do they seriously think that stopping overseas students working ten hours a week in a bar is going to do anything other than satisfy and foster the prejudices of their supporters?”

Under the new rules, the length of further education visas will be reduced from three years to two.

And foreign students will be forced to leave the country as soon as they finish their course before applying for a work visa if they want to return to the UK.

Critics have warned the government is risking serious long-term damage to Britain’s ability to attract international students.

Mr Sheppard said: “This is bordering on the sordid. It’s a grubby little measure.”

Latest figures show there are more than 10,500 international students in Edinburgh.

Alastair Sim, director of Universities Scotland, said further restrictions on high-talent migration risked damaging not only Scotland’s educational institutions but the country as a whole.

He said: “International students gain from studying here and, conversely, Scotland also gains from welcoming international students as they make an important contribution to our economy, society and culture.

“Tighter restrictions on high-talent migration will only serve as a deterrent in attracting international students and will send out negative messages to the rest of the world.”

Audrey Cumberford, of Colleges Scotland, said the restrictions would harm the ability of colleges to attract international students.

She said: “As publicly-funded bodies, colleges take pride in offering high quality vocational education for all and have rigorous procedures and processes in place for monitoring international students.

“International students make financial contributions to our economy and enrich the experience of Scottish students by providing a more diverse pool of students, with a broader global perspective.

“These further restrictions will damage Scotland’s standing as a destination for non-EU students, damaging the strong reputation for vocational 
education and training Scotland’s colleges have throughout the world.

“It will also limit the ability of students to progress from college on to university and then contribute to the labour force for up to 24 months.”

ian.swanson@edinburghnews.com