The number of students has fallen in Scottish Universities and University principals have blamed UK immigration changes and the Westminster government’s hard line rhetoric causing the fall in admissions in Scottish universities by up to 26 percent from some countries.
The Scottish university body criticised Westminster immigration policy on international students which led to a fall of over 25 percent of influx of Indian students in 2011/12. The Scottish National Party has decided to raise the mater with the Home Secretary Theresa May.
Figures from the Higher Education Statistics Authority (HESA) show the number of Indian students at Scottish universities fell by 25.8 per cent in 2011-12 compared with the previous year, while there was a 24.9 per cent fall in those from Pakistan and a 14.1 per cent drop in students coming from Nigeria.
Universities Scotland said the figures were a direct result of the UK Border Agency’s (UKBA) decision to end its post-study work route for international students, along with Westminster’s tough talk on UK immigration.
Since April last year the post study work route has been closed to new applicants which means students coming from overseas to study in the UK are no longer allowed to stay and look for a job after graduation unless they have a sponsor.
But while there has been a fall in students coming from India, Pakistan and Nigeria, the number of Chinese students has increased by 21.8 per cent, with the numbers of those coming from the United States and Thailand also on the rise.
Overall, the number of non-European Union students coming to Scotland was up 2.2 per cent in 2011-12 against 2010-11.
Representatives of university say that the irregularity was partly due to the amount of media coverage the UK visa changes had received in the Indian Subcontinent.
Alistair Sim, director of Universities Scotland, said it was a big worrying factor to see such steep declines in students from India, Nigeria and Pakistan studying in Scotland. These countries were important markets for Scottish higher education and countries with which Scotland had had long-standing academic relationships.
That they were welcome in Scotland was not being projected and the hard line rhetoric by parts of the UK government was sending negative signals to the students of these countries.
And it all started within months after UKBA had announced the end of its post study work route for international students.
He said the changes put Scottish higher education at “a competitive disadvantage”.
A study by Strathclyde University published in 2009 estimated that international students contribute £188 million to universities in Scotland directly, with a further £321m to the wider Scottish economy.