Scots support more flexible immigration rules for international students

New polling data on Scots’ attitudes on immigration shows strong support for easing restrictions placed on students from overseas (outside of the EU).

Public support comes as our sister organisation, Universities UK, launches a new policy proposal for a post-study work visa for international students. The proposed arrangements would allow international students to work in the UK for up to two years after graduating. Currently, there are strict eligibility rules for post-study work in the UK, involving high costs for both students and employers and various time restrictions.

The UK survey sampled 363 people in Scotland, conducted by ComRes, showed that:

  • 83% of adults in Scotland think that international students should stay and work in the UK after graduation, using their skills here and contributing to the economy rather than immediately returning home;
  • 67% think that the UK should continue to compete for international students to improve and increase its market share;
  • 60% believe that students from overseas should be allowed to stay in the UK for two years or more;

Commenting on public support for the policy proposals, Professor Richard A Williams, Principal and Vice Chancellor at Heriot-Watt University and Convener of Universities Scotland’s International Committee, said:

“Scotland is a sought after study destination and the country benefits educationally, socially, culturally and economically from talented international students. We could all benefit more if students from overseas were allowed to stay on after they graduate and work for a few years before returning home. As a welcoming and inclusive nation, Scotland has much to gain from international students with high-level skills. We know there is support for this amongst employers as well as the public.

“With the UK’s exit from the EU, the UK Government is right to consider Britain’s place in the world and its relationship to it. The time is right to take a fresh look at immigration policy across the UK and make sure it works for our economic and social needs. Universities UK’s policy proposal for international graduates offers the UK a mutually beneficial outcome; for students, for employers, for our export strategy and economic growth. We look forward to constructive engagement with the UK Government.”



  1. In July 2018, Australia overtook the UK as the second biggest destination for international students (BBC News)
  2. The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) will publish its recommendations following a substantial consultation on the impact of international students in the UK. The MAC is an independent advisory body to the UK Government.  on the impact of international students in this month (UK)
  3. The polling was carried out across the UK in August 2018 by ComRes. The report can be found above. The sample size in Scotland was 363.