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EUSA takes UKBA fight to Holyrood
EUSA criticises UKBA consultation document and Universities Scotland call for an independent review
Lily Panamsky Pierre Thistlejohn
Wednesday, 26 January, 2011 | 16:34
Credit: Flickr: dannyman

Edinburgh University Students' Association (EUSA) have registered their opposition to proposals from the UK Border Agency to limit the number of international students allowed to study in the UK.

At a meeting with Scottish Government officials, EUSA President Liz Rawlings discussed the UKBA consultation document which was issued to stakeholders in December.

The document suggests restricting the availability of post-study work visas, the imposition of English language tests on applicants and a ban on students bringing dependents to the UK if their course is less than 12 months long.

Ms Rawlings said: "The proposals in this consultation have not been thought through. Taking away the post-study work visa would be disastrous for current international students and would radically reduce the number of students coming to the UK to study in future.

“International students benefit Scotland and the rest of the UK both economically and culturally. They also significantly contribute to the diversity of Edinburgh University, which should be celebrated, not restricted.

“EUSA are opposing these proposals in the strongest possible way."

The meeting between Ms Rawlings and the Scottish Government came as figures released by UCAS on 20 January showed that the rise in student numbers in 2010 was entirely made up of foreign students.

Of the 5,475 extra places awarded at UK universities last year, EU students filled one third, with the rest taken up by students of other nationalities. The number of British students on courses in the UK fell during the previous year by 400.

According to Universities Scotland, which represents the university principals, the new immigration laws will mean that Scotland will have stricter visa rules and regulations than the United States, Canada, Australia and Germany, all of who are in close competition with Scotland for overseas students.

UCAS reported that there were 3,208 non-EU applicants accepted to Scottish universities in 2010, a number nearly equal to the 3,365 accepted applicants from the EU.

Universities Scotland has written to MPs and requested a separate immigration policy for Scotland, arguing that the current proposals may pose a “big threat” to universities in the country.

Alastair Sim, the director of Universities Scotland, complained about the restriction proposal that came at the same time as funding cuts to universities, stating: “At the same time as university funding is cut across the UK, and universities are told to increase their income from other sources, we face a set of proposals which will completely undermine our ability to succeed in what is already a highly competitive market.”

Overseas students often pay twice the amount or more in tution fees compared to UK and EU students. In 2006-2007, six per cent of students studying in Scotland were from countries outside the EU, and in 2007-2008 the total income from international student fees to all 20 Scottish universities was £188 million.

UKBA announced in December that it was seeking opinions on proposed reforms to Tier 4 visas, used by foreign students coming to the UK.

Immigration Minister Damian Green said: “I believe attracting talented students from abroad is vital to the UK but we must be more selective about who can come here and how long they can stay.

“People imagine students to be those who come here for a few years to study at university and then go home - that is not always the case. Too many students coming to study at below degree level have been coming here with a view to living and working, rather than studying. We need to stop this abuse.”

The consultation encompasses 11 possible changes to UK immigration law affecting students. One major concern is the proposed limits on employment rights, particularly for work placements and work between undergraduate and postgraduate study.

Ms Rawlings singled out the proposal to limit the rights of students to bring dependents to the UK as potentially being in violation of human rights legislation.

“It would be a disaster for single parent families, who have a right to a family life,” she told The Journal.


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