Universities Scotland responds to comments made by the Home Secretary and warns that “actions speak louder than words” when it comes to international students

Universities Scotland has expressed its concerns over the announcement made by the Home Secretary, the Rt Hon Theresa May MP in a speech delivered today (Wednesday, 12 December) that the UK Government intends to radically extend the UK Border Agency’s interview programme for international students coming to study in the UK.

Universities Scotland’s Director, Alastair Sim said:


“We welcome the Minister’s reassurance that the UK Government has no plans to introduce a cap on international students as part of immigration control. We welcome her words that the brightest and the best international students continue to be very welcome to the UK and agree it is vital to our sector that this message is received outside of the UK. Our concern however, is that action speaks louder than words. The UK Government’s intention to massively scale up the number of face-to-face interviews with prospective students to 100,000 sends exactly the opposite message across the world. We consider this to be disproportionate and unnecessary.

“The data has shown very low levels of non-compliance amongst international students studying at university in the UK. Yet if we put this announcement in context, 100,000 face-to-face interviews would mean that almost every second international student in the UK would have been interviewed and treated as if high-risk. This is not the way to rebuild the UK’s reputation as a welcoming destination for the brightest and the best students from across the globe.

“International students are hugely important to universities in Scotland, who go to tremendous lengths to comply with UKBA’s immigration rules. The presence of international students on Scottish campuses not only enriches the student experience for our home students but offers additional social and cultural vitality to communities more widely.”



  • You can read the Home Secretary, the Rt Hon Theresa May’s speech on ‘An Immigration System that Works in the National Interest’ delivered on 12 December 2012 here:
  • In a speech to Holyrood’s higher education conference on 29 November, Universities Scotland’s Convener, Professor Pete Downes, said of UKBA policy in relation to the UK’s recruitment of international students: “It seems to me utterly incomprehensible that the UK Border Agency (UKBA) in practice is putting that in danger, creating a competitive disadvantage for the UK and sending out the international message that the government does not really welcome talented students to our shores. As I scan the policy horizon, it’s hard to see a bigger risk.”