Briefings & Evidence

Briefing for 16 June Members’ Debate on Rural Communities and the Post Study Work Visa

We have issued a briefing to MSPs ahead of Kate Forbes’ (SNP, Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch) Members’ Debate on Rural Communities and the Post Study Work Visa to take place on Thursday 16 June at 12.45 pm.

We want to see a change to the UK’s immigration policy to allow international students, studying in Scotland, the opportunity to start their careers in Scotland to the mutual benefit to the individual and to Scotland.

Universities Scotland sends our support to the Brian Family. Their wish to remain in Scotland, and to continue making a positive contribution to a community and a nation that is now their home is shared by many international students here in Scotland.

Student testimonials. At the end of this brief Lauren Davis, a Glasgow School of Art graduate from the US gives her perspective on the ‘near impossible’ immigration process the UK has at present. By contrast Mary Njoki, Maulin Bach and Hameed Sanni give their positive experiences of the former Fresh Talent initiative.

Key messages:


  1.  There is a wealth of evidence base to support the economic, social and cultural benefits Scotland would gain if a post study work visa were to be reintroduced.
  2. There is a very broad consensus of support to see the return of a more competitive post study work visa in Scotland. The university and college sectors, including staff and student unions, the business community and all parties represented in the Scottish Parliament support this.
  3. Tier 2 (as the policy stands of January 2016) is a restrictive and anti-competitive route for international graduates and bureaucratic and off-putting for employers.
  4. The current policy is undermining Scotland’s universities. Student numbers, from what were once key markets for Scotland, have fallen significantly, with double-digit decreases, since the Tier route for immigration 2 was introduced. New Zealand, Canada, Australia and America grow their international student numbers at the expense of Scotland, where our overall numbers stagnate at best.
  5. The global demand for overseas study continues. Scotland’s universities have all of the assets needed to be an attractive proposition to prospective international students – with the exception of a competitive visa policy.


The Scottish Government’s cross-party group has outlined a sensible proposal, with wide stakeholder buy-in, that would work for Scotland within the UK. We urge the UK Government to allow this to become policy in Scotland. The precedent exists within the UK and it was recommended by the Smith Commission, without the need for legislation.

Read our brief for the Members’ Debate

MSPs will debate the following motion:

Kate Forbes S5M-00247: Rural Communities and the Post-study Work Visa – That the Parliament notes the case of the Brain family, who migrated from Australia to the Scottish Highlands; understands that the Brain family intended to apply for a post-study work visa in order to remain in Scotland; believes that attracting young families to live in rural areas such as Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch is essential for the economic and social success of rural Scotland, and believes that rural communities would benefit from a new post-study work visa scheme.