The Real McCoy, Elijah McCoy that is, studied mechanical engineering at Edinburgh University. He was a foreign student whose later inventions meant railway locomotives ran better. Heriot-Watt University has more than 116,000 alumni worldwide in over 190 countries. Edinburgh College has links to India and Dubai and historic links in Azerbaijan, Egypt and across Europe.
Edinburgh’s centres of learning have always welcomed students from abroad and they’ve benefitted from having them.
Not only do they pay fees to study here, they spend money in the city and when they go home they spread the word about how good Edinburgh is and how good Scotland is, opening up opportunities for the city and for businesses. International students are good for us in lots of ways, bring us investment and improve our reputation.
The problem is that there’s likely to be a lot fewer of them in the future. The changes that the UK Government is making to visa conditions is making it harder for them to come here – the changes that have already been made mean that Edinburgh College has lost two-thirds of its international students (that’s students from outside the EU) in the last three years and over 90 per cent of the money it earned from them.
Edinburgh University says that the abolition of the post-study work visa makes it harder to attract international students. It also says that the UK Government’s proposals to reduce the number of international students that come here will damage all of Scotland’s universities. Scotland has 31,000 students from 180 countries outside of the EU and they contribute about £1bn to Scotland’s economy every year.
It’s time the UK changed course, started welcoming people from abroad who can contribute to our country, and help to build our international reputation instead. We can’t afford to miss the Real McCoy.
Deidre Brock is SNP MP for Edinburgh North and Leith