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Donald Cameron, the Highlands and Islands Conservative MSP, has warmly welcomed the decision by the UK Government that they propose there will be two-year post-study work visas for international students.

Mr Cameron said: “Scottish Conservatives have argued for this change and the announcement shows that the UK Government is listening.

“This is good news for University of the Highlands and Islands partners like Lews Castle College in the Western Isles, and West Highland College in Lochaber, which are seeking to attract students from overseas.

“Through UHI, our region offers distinctive courses in wonderful locations and I am sure that this announcement will help us attract even more international students in the future.”

Alastair Sim, Director of Universities Scotland, said of the announcement: “This is a very significant and positive announcement for Scottish and UK universities and one that has long had overwhelming cross-party support in Scotland as well as support from staff, students and Scotland’s business community.

"We’ll want to look closely at the detail  behind today’s announcement but a two-year post-study work visa will start to put the UK back on a competitive footing when it comes to international student recruitment.

"The potential impact of this will be felt much more widely than our universities; it is sure to make a positive contribution to Scotland’s demographic challenges and to Scotland’s economy in the medium and long term.

"It’s also a positive start to a much-needed change of messaging from the UK Government to the rest of the world.”

However, the influential immigration campaign group Migration Watch UK objected to the plan.  Commenting, Alp Mehmet, Chairman of Migration Watch UK, said: This unwise and retrograde step will likely lead to foreign graduates staying on to stack shelves, as happened before.

"Our universities are attracting a record number of overseas students so there is no need to devalue a study visa by turning it into a backdoor route for working here.