Post-Study Work Visa (Scotland)

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 11:00 am on 20th October 2015.

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Photo of Gavin Newlands Gavin Newlands Scottish National Party, Paisley and Renfrewshire North 11:00 am, 20th October 2015

I beg to move,

That this House
has considered the operation of the post-study work visa in Scotland.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Hollobone. I hope the House will note the views of students, graduates, academics, Universities Scotland, the National Union of Students Scotland, colleges, the Scottish Parliament and the business community, which are all calling for the UK Government’s decision to revoke the post-study work visa to be reversed. That broad coalition claims that the Government’s reckless decision hinders the student experience, is devastating for Scotland’s universities and colleges, and damages businesses’ ability to grow their operations.

The post-study work visa is an almost unique area of policy, in that it unites all Scotland’s political parties, including the Scottish Conservatives. In Scotland, we would call it a no-brainer. The post-study work visa, introduced in 2004, was one of new Labour’s few genuinely effective policies. It made a positive contribution to Scotland politically, economically and socially—an exception to prove the rule, some might say.

As the humanitarian crisis affecting refugees from Syria illustrates, Scotland has a proud record of welcoming people from all over the world. We value the contribution that our international students make to and in our communities, towns, workplaces, classes and lecture theatres. They internationalise our experiences and make us more informed and culturally aware.

One of the best things about Paisley is that the University of the West of Scotland’s main campus is located at the top of our high street. UWS is a fantastic university. It opens its doors to students who would normally not get the chance to access higher education, and it provides an excellent student experience. Although I was not a student at UWS, I have strong connections with it: my wife just enrolled there, and my dad will graduate from it in a few weeks’ time. Additionally, three of my staff graduated from UWS, two of whom served as student presidents of the university. Although they graduated at different times and with different degrees, they all agree that studying and working alongside and socialising with the international cohort was the best thing about their time at university. It opened their eyes to different cultures and a different way of working, and they became better students as a result.

Learning from others at university can be just as important as the academic education a person receives. That is the crux of the issue. The UK Government fail to understand the positive and real impact that the PSW visa has on Scotland. Although the Home Secretary believes that the PSW visa benefits only those from outside the European Union, the truth is that we all benefit from having international students studying and living in our communities. That is why the broad coalition I spoke of is united in its desire to see the post-study work visa reintroduced. We believe there is a clear, demonstrable demographic and skills need, along with wider and immeasurable social and economic benefits to restoring that route into work.