THE Home Office has come under renewed pressure to allow international students to stay in Scotland after they graduate.

In a report published today, members of Westminster’s Scottish Affairs Committee say the current rules around non-EU students studying in Scotland are too restrictive, and harm business and universities.

Scotland should have separate visas, the committee says, because of the demographic challenges unique to the country. The report points to a lower birth rate and the difficulty health, energy and finance companies have in recruiting skilled graduate workers.

The report from MPs echoes calls made by MSPs in a report by Holyrood’s Devolution committee published on Saturday. All five political parties in Scotland have called for the reintroduction of the visa. First launched in 2005 as part of Jack McConnell’s Fresh Talent initiative, the post-study visa ended in 2012. In those seven years thousands of non-EU graduates were allowed to remain in the country for two years.

According to the committee’s report, current rules give the graduating foreign students too little time to find a job, and those jobs they can get often pay below the minimum salary allowed.

This, the committee says, can be solved by extending the time the graduates are allowed to remain in the country and also by reforming sponsorship rules to make it easier for businesses to employ the graduates.

They also call for regional salary thresholds to be introduced.

Committee chair Pete Wishart said: “We currently have a situation where people come to Scotland from around the world to spend three or four years here being educated and becoming settled in our society. Then we raise unnecessary barriers preventing these talented individuals from staying and contributing to our economy.

“The Scottish Government, education sector and business sectors have all indicated that they want to see changes to this situation. There has been an almost universal call for change and the UK Government must give assurances that it will take heed and give proper consideration to reforms.”

Secretary of State for Scotland David Mundell had initially been resistant to bringing back the post-study visa, saying the government had “no intention” of looking again at the decision to scrap the initiative.

But the strength of feeling from business, universities and politicians in his own party saw him forced to back down. Mundell told the committee that the government would ‘look at any reasonable suggestion to improve the current arrangements’.

“If the report shows that there are measures we can take to improve the situation in Scotland then of course we will take that forward,” Mundell added.

A UK Government spokesman said they would consider the report carefully. “We have been clear that we will examine any evidence which the committee, or other interested parties, might produce about the effectiveness of post-study work schemes and any suggestions they have for further improvements,” he said.

“The UK has excellent post-study work opportunities for students who wish to stay and work after graduating. Graduates can stay if they get a graduate level job, get an internship or become a graduate entrepreneur.”