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The Student speaks to MP Tommy Sheppard about the necessity of reinstating post-study work visas for international students

ByVictoria Belton

Feb 8, 2016

Edinburgh MP Tommy Sheppard is working with the University of Edinburgh to urge the UK Home Office to reinstate a post-study work scheme for international students.

Scottish universities, including The University of Edinburgh and several Scottish government officials have warned against the tangible effects of removing post-study work schemes.

Back in 2005, Labour First Minister Jack McConnell introduced a Fresh Talent Initiative to encourage people to settle in Scotland and granted international students two years after graduation to find work.

However this system was dismissed by the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition in 2012.

Tommy Sheppard is an SNP politician and has been MP for Edinburgh East since May 2015. He is also the SNP spokesperson on the Cabinet Office in the House of Commons. Sheppard made a speech in the House of Commons about post-study work schemes back in May last year and has been giving his total support to the University on this matter ever since.

Speaking to The Student, Sheppard said: “We’ve been doing a lot of work to see if we can get a specific scheme for Scotland, because we did used to have one. That process isn’t yet concluded. But I think there is still an interim report recommending there should be such a scheme.

“Our problem is that because we are not an independent country, we can only do what the Tory government will let us do, and they seem to have set their face very much against any type of scheme.”

Sheppard will continue fighting the conservatives on the matter.

“I think the more the campaign goes on, the more we can chip away with what hope we have of getting a result, because what’s happening is crazy. It’s not only bad for the students but it puts our universities at a very great disadvantage.

“If you want to go study Engineering and you can do it in America or Scandinavia and then work there for a couple of years after your course, that’s going to be more attractive than coming here and getting chucked out as soon as you’re finished.”

“We should be welcoming people here, you know?”

Speaking to The Student, Euan Fergusson, University of Edinburgh’s Head of International Student Support, said that Scottish businesses are missing out on a vast amount of potential talent due to these restrictions.

Fergusson was part of a post-study work working group which looked at the impact of removing the post-study work visa.

“It was established in that report that businesses really feel a need to have something in order to recruit graduates, because I think the tier two restrictions that are in place, even though there are some concessions for tier four students, they don’t really work particularly well”, he told The Student.

Fergusson said that tight restrictions have precipitated a “brain-drain” out of Scotland, and that Scotland was “falling behind” compared to competitor countries, such as Canada and Australia.

Fergusson told The Student the visa scheme “wasn’t just withdrawn but it was decimated on the way out…. it was criticized heavily by the government who said they were removing this work category.”

The UK home office stated one of their reasons for putting such tight restrictions on post-study work visas was because the system was often open to widespread abuse.

But Fergusson denied the claim, stating: “wasn’t really born out by reality.” He told The Student: “There were lots of reasons to believe it was a very successful scheme.”

Image credit: Google Images Creative Commons

By Victoria Belton

Victoria Belton is the current news editor of The Student and a fourth-year in Social Anthropology.

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