By a Newsnet reporter
UK Prime Minister David Cameron has been accused of blatant hypocrisy after boasting that there would be “no limit” to the number of Indian students allowed to study in the UK.
In a round of TV interviews in Mumbai as part of his three-day trade visit, Mr Cameron welcomed Indian university students and said there was no limit on the number that could come to British universities.
Mr Cameron said Britain welcomed Indian university students.
“We want to make sure that we are attracting… the best and the brightest,” he said.
“And in terms of our visa operation here in India, it is the biggest one we have anywhere in the world. Nine out of 10 of those who apply for a visa get one.”
However, following the remarks, SNP MP Pete Wishart slammed the Tory leader and accused him of “blatant hypocrisy” for welcoming Indian students to the UK, despite new immigration policy causing a sharp decline in numbers.
Just last week Mr Wishart raised his concerns in the House of Commons, as the termination of the UKBA post-study work route has meant a 25.8% drop in the number of Indian students coming to Scotland.
Commenting Mr Wishart said:
“Cameron’s comments are blatant hypocrisy. He is welcoming Indian students to come to the UK while his government has implemented damaging immigration policy, which is putting Scotland at a disadvantage.
“International students are attracted to Scotland’s universities due to their world-class reputations and our culture and history. Their presence on Scottish university campuses not only enriches the student experience for our home students but the wider local community.
“They also add value to the Scottish economy – the University of Strathclyde in 2009 estimated that international students contribute £188 million to universities in Scotland directly, with a further £321 million to the wider Scottish economy.
“International students were already going to tremendous lengths to comply with UKBA’s immigration rules, and the termination of the UKBA post-study work route – which was part of the visa package and enabled international students to help pay off their fees- has left Scotland unable to compete with many of our competitor nations who still offer the feature.
“The negative consequences of this UK policy change in Scotland is an example of why Scotland would do better to have full powers coming from the Scottish Parliament, rather than Westminster.”
Universities Scotland’s Director Alistair Sim said it was “deeply worrying” to see such steep declines in students from India, Nigeria and Pakistan studying in Scotland.
Mr Sim added: “These are important markets for Scottish higher education and countries with which we have long -standing academic relationship. It’s very important that the message gets out to these countries that international students are welcome in Scotland. This is not the perception given out by hard-line rhetoric from parts of the UK Government.
“It is telling that such a fall occurred only months after UKBA announced the end to its post-study work route for international students.
“Scottish higher education still has a world-class offer to talented international students, despite being put a competitive disadvantage as a result of changes to immigration.”