Oil and Gas Sector Skills (International Students)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 22nd May 2013.

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Photo of Maureen Watt Maureen Watt Scottish National Party

18. To ask the Scottish Government what recent discussions it has had with universities and colleges regarding demand from international students for courses that develop skills for the oil and gas sector. (S4O-02152)

Photo of Michael Russell Michael Russell Scottish National Party

The oil and gas sector is a hugely important industry for Scotland, and our universities and colleges provide world-class education and training in Scotland and internationally. We recently provided £1.7 million through our energy skills Scotland funding to support the establishment of the oil and gas academy of Scotland, which is a collaboration—initially between Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen College, the University of Aberdeen and Banff and Buchan College—to share resources and facilities to ensure that maximum provision is available to the oil and gas industry.

I am aware of the concerns that have been raised by the principals of the University of Aberdeen, Robert Gordon University and Aberdeen College about the impact of the United Kingdom Government’s student migration policy on those institutions’ ability to recruit international students to their oil and gas courses. The principals wrote to me on the matter on 30 April. I share their strong concerns and, once again, I am taking them up with the Minister of State for Immigration.

Photo of Maureen Watt Maureen Watt Scottish National Party

I thank the cabinet secretary for that full answer. I, too, have received that letter and have written to the immigration minister. Given the excellent global reputation of those universities and colleges in relation to the oil and gas sector, which the minister highlighted, what can be done with the UK Border Agency to change those wrong-headed rules?

Photo of Michael Russell Michael Russell Scottish National Party

The short answer is that we need independence. We need to have control of our migration and immigration policy. That would ensure that we set policy that was suitable for Scotland, not policy that was set for other places.

Our universities and colleges have a global reputation, but the most important thing is that we ensure that, apart from having a reputation for excellence, they have a reputation for welcoming overseas students. The problem is that the way in which the UK Government is handling this matter means that it is becoming unwelcoming in that regard, and we are losing students as a result. All university and college principals know that. We should be working together to change that situation, and the only proper way to do so is for the Scottish Parliament to have full control of the policy.