Home Secretary faces backlash following plan to limit foreign students

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Credit: Stefan Rousseau/PA

Home Secretary Amber Rudd is facing condemnation for her plans to limit the number of foreign students studying at UK universities.

At last week’s Conservative Party conference (CPC), Rudd suggested “tougher rules” for international students who are studying “lower quality courses” at universities in the UK.

As part of this proposed new scheme, the UK government would introduce a new two-tier visa system for international students, which will target poorer universities and the courses that they offer.

The University of Stirling has warned that any new visa system “must reflect the diversity of institutions across the UK and recognise the enormous contribution international students make to our universities”.

This plan would see the availability of post-study visas becoming available only to those at more prestigious universities, in an attempt to reduce the levels of immigration to the UK.

“So our consultation will ask what more can we do to support our best universities – and those that stick to the rules – to attract the best talent … while looking at tougher rules for students on lower quality courses.”

The previous post-study visa scheme, which allowed international students to reside in the UK for two years upon graduation, was scrapped in 2012.

Rudd’s proposals have been criticised by the heads of a number of Scottish universities, who whilst supporting the introduction of post-study visas, wish to see the scheme extended to Scotland.

A spokesperson for Stirling University said: “Our international students are valued members of the university community who contribute immeasurably to campus life, bringing cultural richness and enhancing the student experience for all.

“Any new student visa criteria must reflect the diversity of institutions across the UK and recognise the enormous contribution international students make to our universities.

“The positive impact these students have in directly supporting regional economies, enhancing the supply of highly-skilled graduates and bringing diverse knowledge and cultural experience cannot be understated.

“We want to reassure our student community at the University of Stirling that as an institution with a global outlook, we value our international students and staff members enormously and will continue to promote the benefits of international collaboration and exchange.”

Following her speech at the CPC, Rudd was accused of a “damaging crackdown” on international student places at UK universities.

SNP MSP James Dornan stated: “The Tories are blindly following a UKIP agenda on that will be damaging to a sector which is hugely important to our economy.

“We’ve already seen the Tories happily exclude Scottish universities from a visa scheme they were crying out for – so it’s not hard to figure out what courses Amber Rudd is likely to consider ‘high quality’ and ‘low quality’.

“This is a classic divide and rule tactic from the Tory playbook.

“International students make a significant contribution to our universities financially and in research, as well as having a wider positive economic impact. They should be welcomed, not demonised.

“If the only answer the Tories have to the problems caused by Brexit is to close the door on migrants then we should be very worried.”

Last month, the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) said that the education sector is being harmed by restrictions on international students, which are causing highly-skilled, well-educated migrants to leave the UK to work elsewhere.

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