Professor Sally Mapstone, Principal of the University of St Andrews, has severely criticised UK government immigration policy.

Professor Sally Mapstone, Principal of the University of St Andrews, Photo: John Cairns
Professor Sally Mapstone, Principal of the University of St Andrews, Photo: John Cairns

In a letter to Stephen Gethins, the MP for North East Fife and the SNP Europe spokesperson, obtained by The Courier, Professor Mapstone warned of the “severe economic and cultural effects” of Home Secretary Amber Rudd’s proposals to tie the number of international students at a given institution to the quality of courses.

This is despite the University refusing to comment on the same proposals for The Saint earlier this year on the grounds that there were no specific proposals to comment on and that such speculation could be distressing for international students.

Outlining her concerns about these attempts to cut immigration, Prof Mapstone said, “The Home Secretary has promised to reduce international student numbers by differentiating by quality of the course and quality of the institution.

“Scotland’s 19 higher education institutions reject the introduction of any restriction on their ability to recruit international students on the basis of supposed differentiation in ‘quality’.

“All 19 of Scotland’s higher education institutions provide consistently high quality education which is rigorously and externally assessed by the Quality Assurance Agency.”

The former pro-vice-chancellor for Education at Oxford University added: “St Andrews has been an international seat of learning since its foundation in 1413. Its early links were with Europe and now we recruit extensively from across the world. Almost 50% of our students come from outwith the UK.

“Our graduates are truly global citizens, and we would regard any attempt to restrict their recruitment as deeply impoverishing to Scotland and the UK, culturally and economically.”

It is estimated that non-EU students contribute £444 million in fees and £488 million in off campus expenditure in Scotland.

Prof Mapstone also argued that tuition income is “fundamental” to securing the 7,000 jobs linked to the university.

International students bring in a significantly larger amount of tuition fee income to St Andrews than students from the UK and EU with an international undergraduate student paying £20,570  (in the case of medical students, £28,200) annually as of 2017. This is compared with Scottish and EU students paying just £1,280 and students from the rest of the UK whose fees are capped at £9,250 per year.

According to The Courier, North East Fife MP Mr Gethins has now been in touch with both Ms Rudd and UK Education Secretary Justine Greening to raise the concerns.

He said, “We should be proud of the University of St Andrews’ international prestige that attracts some of the brightest and best from around the world.

“Reducing the number of international students would have a deeply damaging impact on the University, including the jobs it supports directly and indirectly on a financial level. It would also have a negative impact on the town and local area to have fewer international students come and join us.”

A Home Office spokeswoman said: “We welcome international students who want to come to the UK to study at our world-leading educational institutions and we are committed to making sure we can attract the brightest and the best to do so. At the same time we must make sure that what we offer brings real benefits to this country.

“We are considering what more we can do to strengthen the system to support the best universities — and those that stick to the rules — to attract the best talent.  This is not about pulling up the drawbridge to international students but making sure those students that come here, come to study.”

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