The David Cameron government on Wednesday rejected a demand from the Scottish government and other stakeholders to re-introduce the post-study work visa, which allowed students from India and non-EU countries to work for two years after their study.
The visa, closed in 2012, was popular among self-financing Indian students, who used income from work to pay off some of the loans taken for their study in UK universities. There has since been a major drop in the number of Indian students coming to Britain.
International students continue to be able to take up work after study, but this is linked to a job offer and to a graduate-level job. There was no such restriction in the closed visa, which the Home Office says led to much abuse.
Responding to a question in the House of Commons on Wednesday, Prime Minister David Cameron said Britain had a “world-beating” offer to international students, who could take up graduate jobs after completing their courses.
“The clarity of our offer is world beating. Frankly, there are lots of people in our country desperate for jobs...We don’t need the brightest and best of students to come here and then do menial jobs. That’s not what our immigration system is for.”
Scottish secretary David Mundell had announced last week the Cameron government had “no intention” of bringing back the earlier visa. Immigration is the responsibility of the UK government based in London.
Scotland ministers reacted with dismay at the rejection of the demand to bring back the visa, which, they say, economically benefited universities in Scotland. The demand was supported by trade and industry and the Scotland branch of the Conservative party.
The Smith Commission report published after the Scotland referendum on independence in 2014 had committed the five main parties to “explore the possibility of introducing formal schemes to allow international higher education students graduating from Scottish further and higher education institutions to remain in Scotland and contribute to economic activity for a defined period of time”.