University group wants ‘bizarre’ three-year EU visa plan scrapped
A leading group of universities has called on the Home Secretary to scrap “bizarre” plans for non-extendable three-year visas for EU nationals following a no-deal Brexit, to avoid affecting students.
The Russell Group wants Sajid Javid to drop plans for the European Temporary Leave to Remain (ETLR) scheme, claiming it is a “kick in the teeth” for both Scottish universities, where standard undergraduate courses last four years, and future EU students on longer courses, such medicine and engineering.
The group said one in four EU students coming to study in the UK in 2017/18 started a course expected to last more than three years – a total of 15,000 students.
ETLR would create a new temporary immigration category for EU nationals arriving between a potential no-deal Brexit and the introduction of the UK’s new immigration system, planned for 2021.
EU arrivals during this time would be able to stay for three months before requiring the visa, which would enable them to stay for 36 months.
The Russell Group claimed the scheme “backtracks” on commitments that any EU citizens arriving before the end of 2020 would be eligible to apply for settled status.
The group’s policy head Jess Cole said: “Introducing a non-extendable, three-year visa for EU nationals would be bizarre.
“It’s a kick in the teeth to Scottish universities, given nearly every undergraduate course in Scotland is four years, and to courses such as medicine and engineering, which are also longer. This makes no sense for the NHS and industry, given the doctors and engineers we need.
“These are most likely the unintended consequences of an ill-considered Government policy – but even so, we have repeatedly made our concerns clear to the Home Office and have still received no reassurances.
“It’s time to scrap these plans and come good on the promises made to the EU citizens who contribute so much to our society and economy – whether they are here already or planning to come in the next few years.”
Scotland’s Higher Education Minister said the visa scheme must be “dropped immediately” and pledged to raise the issue at an education ministers’ meeting on Friday.
Richard Lochhead said: “Brexit is already the single biggest risk to Scottish universities, and with 9% of our university students coming from the EU this damaging policy further threatens our ability to attract and retain EU staff and students.”
He said the policy “ignores the fact that the majority of undergraduate courses in Scotland last four years” and is “just a further example of how Scotland’s distinct and specific needs have been totally ignored by the UK Government throughout the entire Brexit process”.
Liberal Democrat deputy leader Jo Swinson has written to Mr Javid calling for the scheme to be scrapped.
She said: “The Home Secretary is asking students who want to study in Scotland to commit to a four-year course with only a guarantee of a non-extendable three-year visa.
“He has a degree in economics, so he doesn’t need me to tell him that four into three just doesn’t work.”