Staff, students and university principals launch a Manifesto for the Mobility of Talent

UCU Scotland have joined with NUS and Universities Scotland to make a joint statement on the need to have a more open approach to immigration with the return of post-study work visas, and to guarantee the rights of EU citizens working in our universities to work and live here.  You can see the joint press release issued below and read the joint statement here.

Students, staff and principals have called on political parties contesting the General Election to support a Manifesto for Mobility of Talent which focuses on three clear immigration and mobility policies for Scotland.

Political parties’ manifestos for the General Election on the 8 June are expected to be published in the coming days.

The Manifesto for the Mobility of Talent, published on 1 May by the staff and student unions of Scotland’s universities and its Principals, asks all parties to include a proposal for a Scottish post-study work visa in their plans for Government, allowing international students the opportunity to stay and work in Scotland for a few years after they graduate. Scotland attracts 31,000 students from outside the European Union to study in its universities, generating significant economic and cultural benefits for Scotland. Yet current immigration policy makes it very difficult for international students to stay and work in Scotland, forcing a highly skilled and young demographic to return home meaning Scotland’s business sector and public services lose out on talent as a result.

There is cross-party support in Scotland for the return of a post-study work visa for international students. All five major Scottish political parties back a proposal for the reintroduction of such a visa.

Public opinion in Scotland supports such a move. A recent poll found 83% of Scots support the idea that international students should remain in Scotland to work for a period after they graduate rather than immediately returning to their home country. 67% of Scots think the economic impact of international students helps to create jobs. Only 27% of Scots think of international students as immigrants.

Commenting on the launch of the Manifesto, Alastair Sim, Director of Universities Scotland, the representative body of Scotland’s 19 higher education institutions, said:

“The next UK Government is going to have to take a new approach to immigration as it moves on with Brexit. This election gives politicians in Scotland a chance to send a strong and united message to the next Government, backed by the electorate, that Scotland wants an immigration policy that works for us.

“We value living and working amongst people from across the world. We want that talent to come and we want to keep our highly-skilled international students for the benefit of our economy and society. Scotland has been able to set a different policy on immigration before. It is entirely possible for the next UK Government to make this happen for Scotland again.”

The joint Manifesto for the Mobility of Talent also calls on politicians to guarantee the rights of the 4,500 staff from the EU and EAA who already work in Scotland’s universities to continue to work and reside in the UK without limits on their ability to access public services. Universities want EU staff and students to maintain freedom of movement.

The Manifesto finally calls for support for opportunities for Scottish students to go abroad as part of their studies. The UK’s continued role in Erasmus+, a major European student exchange programme, is in doubt as a result of Brexit.

NUS Scotland President Vonnie Sandlan said:

“The economic uncertainty of Brexit threatens to have a negative impact on young people’s futures. In this election politicians must be reminded it is their duty to ensure that students and young people have access to the opportunities and experiences that will enable them to reach their full potential in life.

“NUS Scotland strongly believes that students from outside the UK – be that within the EU, or beyond it – bring immense cultural, economic, and educational benefits to our universities and colleges, as well as wider Scottish society. In addition to this, Scottish students also benefit from the chance to study elsewhere in the EU and it is vital that these doors of opportunity do not shut as a consequence of Brexit. In the next Parliament we want to see Scottish MPs hold the UK Government to account on these issues and ensure education and mobility are at the heart of Brexit negotiations.”

Mary Senior, Scotland Official, University and College Union said:

“Our global workforce is a key strength of the education sector, and along with EU and international students, make a hugely valuable contribution to our universities. To avoid a brain drain of international talent we need to send a strong message that staff and students from around the world are welcome in Scotland. That’s why our manifesto calls for the incoming UK government to immediately guarantee the right to remain for EU citizens working and studying in the UK, and end the uncertainty that they are currently facing. We need to be clear that people are welcome to come to study and work in Scotland, and the return of the post-study work visa for international students would do exactly that.”

Brexit is set to be a defining issue within this election. Brexit creates the need for a very different approach to immigration if the UK is to avoid significant skills gaps in some sectors. The outgoing Conservative Government was expected to launch a wide-ranging consultation on immigration policy in the summer. There has been some recent speculation that a more regional approach to immigration policy across the UK will be needed post-Brexit.

The Smith Commission, which considered new powers for Scotland following the 2014 referendum on independence, concluded that Scotland did not need new powers to enact this policy. It is possible under the existing devolution arrangement to deliver regional variation on immigration policy across the UK.

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