Scotland has always been an open and welcoming nation, and that welcome has been extended to the many people from around the world who choose to study, live, work and raise their families here. Their presence in our communities across the country has helped make Scotland the modern, dynamic nation it is today.
International students have an incredibly positive impact in Scotland. They make up almost a quarter of all students at our universities and make a significant financial and academic contribution to our institutions. They bring important social, cultural and economic benefits to our society and add to the diversity of our communities, enriching the learning experience and supporting local businesses and jobs. Those that choose and are able to stay contribute valuable skills to our workforce and support the sustainable growth of our economy. Those who move elsewhere in the world become valuable friends and ambassadors of Scotland.
Additionally, international students are a potential source of long-term immigration. Scotland faces significant demographic challenges. There will be more deaths than births every year for the next 25 years. The profile of Scotland's population is ageing faster than that of the UK as a whole. Migration is projected to account for all of Scotland's population growth between 2016 and 2041. Attracting skilled people to live and work in Scotland is vital to the nation's economic and social health.
We therefore need an immigration system that recognises the particular needs of Scotland, especially the importance of being able to attract and retain international students. The implications of Brexit gives us huge cause for concern, as the potential loss of freedom of movement of people with EU Member States could severely undermine Scotland's ability to attract talented students from across Europe, reducing the economic benefits that they bring and compounding the demographic challenges that we face.
There is broad support across educational institutions, businesses and political parties in Scotland on the need for change in the UK Government's approach to international students to ensure that Scotland remains a welcoming place for talented and ambitious students from around the world.
The UK Government's refusal to consider the re-introduction of a meaningful post-study work route are counter-productive to our aspirations. The evidence presented in this paper makes it clear that we should celebrate and encourage the presence of international students in our institutions and communities.
Minister for Further Education, Higher Education and Science
Email: * Ed Thomson