Post-study work visa ban must end, Tommy Sheppard says

There are concerns of a 'brain drain' following the repeal of the post-study work visas for foreign students. Picture: Neil Hanna
There are concerns of a 'brain drain' following the repeal of the post-study work visas for foreign students. Picture: Neil Hanna
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CITY MP Tommy Sheppard has backed a call by Edinburgh University for the reintroduction of post-study work visas to allow overseas students to stay and contribute to the Scottish economy for two years after they graduate.

The university warned the scrapping of the system by the UK government had created a “brain drain” of international talent and was constraining economic growth.

In evidence to a Scottish Parliament committee, it said: “As a nation, therefore, we are attracting, developing and then losing some of the brightest talent and minds in the world.”

The university said the remaining post-study work opportunities for overseas students attracted little interest because they were too restrictive.

And it urged reintroduction of an “attractive package” to welcome international talent.

Mr Sheppard, who has raised the issue before in the House of Commons, said: “I’m 100 per cent behind Edinburgh University and the other Scottish universities campaigning to try and get this calamity reversed.

“It’s a lose, lose, lose situation.

“It’s lose for the individuals who study here for several years but are then not able to deploy their new talents in a town or city they have become familiar with, even for a short time. It’s lose for Edinburgh and the country because we cannot take advantage of the talents of these people.

“Having welcomed them and taken their money, we can’t get the benefit of their expertise.

“And it’s lose for the university because they are losing out in a very competitive academic scene, where they are up against institutions in Scandinavia and America and elsewhere who are offering study packages that do include work opportunities.

“It’s a crazy policy, brought about by vindictive small-mindedness and fuelled by bigotry.”

Labour former First Minister Jack McConnell introduced a Fresh Talent scheme in 2005 which allowed international students to stay on and work in Scotland for two years after they graduated.

But it was subsumed under the UK government’s points-based immigration system in 2008 and scrapped by the Conservative-Liberal Democrat Westminster coalition in 2012. The Home Office claimed it was open to widespread abuse.

Mr Sheppard said a post-study work visa scheme could easily be reinstated without the need for primary legislation. And, he argued, if the UK government was determined to maintain the policy in England, there was no reason why Scotland should not be allowed to operate its own system.

ian.swanson@edinburghnews.com