Mixed messages on freedom of movement undermining Welsh higher education sector - Plaid Cymru

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Llyr Gruffydd calls for action to safeguard Wales’s reputation as a top destination for international students and academics.

Plaid Cymru Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Education, Llyr Gruffydd, has called for immediate measures to bolster the recruitment of international students and academics by Welsh universities.

The call follows the publication of UCAS’s first statistical release on the 2017 undergraduate cycle, which reveal a big drop in the number of overseas applicants to Welsh universities by the early October deadline.

The decline of 32% in EU students and 11% in other international applications has strengthened fears that the UK government’s hardening position on international students is harming Welsh universities in their efforts to attract overseas students to come to Wales for their studies.

Raising the matter in the National Assembly, Llyr Gruffydd also called on the Welsh Education Secretary to clarify whether she supports the Welsh Government’s view that freedom of movement could not be maintained – a view that directly contradicts her party’s own position.

Plaid Cymru Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Education, Llyr Gruffydd said:

“International students and academics make an invaluable contribution to Wales, enriching both our universities and communities, and bolstering the Welsh economy.

“A report by Universities Wales detailed that over 25,000 international students studied in Welsh universities in 2013-14, supporting over 7,400 full time equivalent jobs across the country and contributing an equivalent of £368 million to Wales’s GVA. One Welsh job is created for every three non-EU student studying in Wales.

“That the UK Home Secretary is considering the introduction of severe restrictions on the recruitment of international students to Wales is unbelievable.

“Professor Colin Riordan, the Vice-Chancellor of Cardiff University has described the proposals to link student visas with the quality of institutions as making ‘no sense’ and would be ‘an absolutely devastating blow’ to the sector. The Welsh Government should distance itself from the ludicrous position of the Home Office, and act to ensure that international students continue to regard Wales as a desirable destination for study.

“Early figures for the 2017 application cycle should serve as a warning that statements by the UK Government threaten to undermine the higher education sector in Wales. It is the duty of the Welsh Government to protect the interests of Welsh higher education and to oppose the proposed measures to limit the number of international students coming to Wales.

“A good start would be to clarify the Welsh Government’s position on the free movement of people. They must send a clear message to the international community that they will receive the warmest of welcomes when they come to Wales for their studies. It’s disappointing that the Cabinet Secretary failed to make clear whether she supported the view of the leader of her party or the leader of her Government.”

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