News

Immigration threat to universities

Published: 03 Feb 2019 00:01
Part of:
Education, Brexit

Ministers call on UK Government to reconsider post-Brexit immigration policy.

Concerns about the impact of the UK Government’s post-Brexit immigration policy on prospective EU students and universities have been raised by Ministers.  

In the event of a no deal, the UK Government is proposing a European Temporary Leave to Remain of three years, while the majority of degrees in Scotland are four years - meaning prospective students will be put off applying to Scottish universities with no guarantee they will be able to complete courses.

Around 9% of Scottish university students and 27% of full time research staff are EU nationals.

Higher Education Minister Richard Lochhead and Migration Minister Ben Macpherson have asked the UK Government to reconsider the scheme.

Richard Lochhead said:

“Brexit is already the single biggest risk to universities, threatening our ability to attract and retain EU staff and students. This damaging policy can only make things worse.

“The UK Government is simply ignoring the fact that the majority of undergraduate courses in Scotland last four years, putting Scottish universities at a serious disadvantage when competing to attract EU nationals to study.

““This will increase the confusion, anxiety and insecurity around the status of EU citizens coming to Scotland and it’s wholly unnecessary. The UK Government must ensure that the rights of EU citizens will remain the same, regardless of the outcome of negotiations.”

Scotland has around 9% (21,605) EU students, compared to the UK figure of 5.9%.

Full text of letter

Rt Hon Caroline Nokes MP

Minister of State for Immigration

We are writing regarding the UK Government’s policy paper on the position of EU citizens who arrive after 30 March 2019 and before the implementation of the new UK immigration system, in the event of a no-deal.

Of particular concern is the effect the proposed three year European Temporary Leave to Remain will have on the higher education sector in Scotland. In developing this policy, the UK Government has ignored the fact that the majority of undergraduate courses in Scotland are four years in length. The three-year non-extendable time limit will have serious consequences for Scottish institutions, putting them at a competitive disadvantage with regards to undergraduate recruitment. Due to the fact that the criteria for extension are yet to be published and the possibility of extension being refused, this policy, and the uncertainty it creates, is likely to discourage EU citizens applying to Scottish universities as there is no guarantee they will be able to complete courses.

However, the negative effects of this policy go much wider than Scotland. All EU students undertaking non-standard length courses will be seriously disadvantaged. This will include PhD and medical students, those studying part-time, female students who may have to go on maternity leave and many others who do not fit neatly into a three-year undergraduate degree model. The view of the Scottish Government is that this is likely to be discriminatory against particular groups and we would be grateful if you could provide information on the measures the Home Office intends to take to address these issues and any equality impact assessment which was undertaken when developing this policy.

In order to plan effectively for a no-deal situation, the higher education sector in Scotland urgently needs further details on the practical implementation of this policy. I would be grateful if you could provide details on the full eligibility criteria and application process for European Temporary Leave to Remain and information on any fee that will be imposed.

We would also like to stress that this situation is wholly unnecessary. This policy only serves to increase the confusion, anxiety and insecurity many EU nationals currently feel. It is entirely within the gift of the UK Government to take a clear policy position that the rights of EU citizens will remain the same regardless of the outcome of negotiations by honouring the Settlement Scheme as set out in June 2018 which would send a clear message to EU citizens that they remain welcome in the UK and would provide some much-needed certainty for the higher education sector. This is more important than ever given the current impasse in Westminster.

It is also deeply disappointing that the views of the Scottish Government were not sought in the development of this policy in spite of the commitment to meaningful engagement received when you met with the Minister for Migration, Europe and International Development. The Scottish Government reiterates its commitment to working with the Home Office in an open and constructive manner and this situation could have been avoided if the Home Office had taken into account Scotland’s unique situation at an early stage. It is also regrettable that, once again we were given minimal notice of the impending publication of this policy which, I’m sure you will agree, does not fulfil the UK Government’s public commitment to genuinely involve the devolved administrations in the Brexit process.

We are sure you will agree that EU citizens contribute a huge amount to our economy, society and culture and are a vital component of the higher education sector in Scotland. We urge the UK Government to reconsider this policy and provide certainty by guaranteeing the provisions for EU citizens set out in the Withdrawal Agreement even in the event of a no-deal.

The Scottish Government maintains that the UK Government should immediately rule out no-deal and seek an extension to the Article 50 process.

We would be grateful if you could consider these issues as a matter of urgency and look forward to your prompt response.

I am copying this letter to the Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation, Chris Skidmore, the Brexit Minister for Wales, Jeremy Miles, and the Secretary of State for Scotland.

Minister for Further Education, Higher Education and Science Richard Lochhead

Minister for Europe, Migration and International Development Ben Macpherson