Scots back immigration policies that will help universities thrive, new poll shows

The overwhelming majority of Scottish people support immigration policies that will help universities to thrive according to new polling which Universities Scotland hope will influence the thinking of the next UK government.  The next term of the UK Parliament will consider changes to the immigration system as suggested by the Migration Advisory Committee who are currently assessing the salary threshold for the Government, as well as a potential new immigration system should the UK leave the European Union.

The analysis undertaken by Savanta ComRes shows the following results:

  • 86% of adults living in Scotland say it is more important that the UK’s immigration system attracts university staff who are highly skilled. Only 3% say that it is more important that the system attracts university staff who are highly paid.
  • Nearly nine in ten (87%) Scottish adults agree that scientists, academics and their support staff are valuable to the UK.
  • Over eight in ten (82%) Scottish adults agree that it is important for the UK to be a world leader in science and research.
  • Four in five (83%) Scottish adults agree that the UK should try to compete with other major economies to attract scientists, academics and their support staff.
  • Almost four in five (78%) Scottish adults agree that the UK’s immigration system should allow scientists, academics and their support staff to work in the UK at all stages of their career.
  • Almost two thirds (64%) of Scottish adults agree that the UK points-based immigration system should be arranged so that scientists, academics and their support staff score highly.

Universities across Scotland are concerned the salary threshold will restrict their ability to recruit in a variety of roles, such as lab technicians and research positions, which are often paid below the £30,000 threshold but are usually the first step on successful academic and industry careers.

Professor Andrea Nolan, Convener of Universities Scotland, said:

“This latest polling demonstrates that the Scottish public are keenly aware that Scotland needs people of skill and talent to come to the country, regardless of what happens with Brexit.

“Scotland has unique demographic challenges which means that immigration has a big role to play in ensuring our vital industries, like higher education, are able to grow further and become an even greater success story for Scotland. We need early career academics and technicians to come to Scotland and if the salary threshold remains at £30,000 a year, universities and other vital sectors, such as the NHS are going to struggle to fill vacancies for roles that are usually undertaken by fledgling academics.

“We want to see all political parties, regardless of who is in government later this month, commit to ensuring that Scotland and its universities flourish.”

Ahead of the General Election, Universities Scotland published its ‘asks’ from political parties in Scotland which included the following policies on immigration:

  • Creating an immigration system that facilitates and promotes academic collaboration and exchange among students, researchers and scientists.
  • Attract international talent to the UK by reforming the burdensome visa process for talented international scientists and researchers, making it easier for them to work for short periods in the UK.
  • Introduce the promised two year post-study work offer to graduates so we can keep talent developed in UK universities and make sure students choose to study in Scotland and not in rival countries like Australia and Canada.
  • Lower the proposed salary requirement for international workers to gain a high-skilled work visa to £21,000 to ensure we can attract the vital staff our universities need.
  • Immigration policies that address Scotland’s specific demographic need for high-skills and inward migration.


  • Methodology: Savanta ComRes interviewed 4,042 British adults (of which 378 live in Scotland) from the 22nd to 26th November 2019. Data were weighted to be demographically representative of Britain. Savanta ComRes is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules. Full tables at 
  • The Migration Advisory Committee is currently assessing evidence it has received on a Salary threshold and points-based system. The current salary threshold in most instances is £30,000. Universities Scotland would like to see the threshold reduced to £21,000 in order to attract young researchers, academics and scientists.