FOUR out of five Scots want overseas students to be allowed to work here once they graduate - the highest proportion in the UK.

A survey found 83 per cent of Scottish adults wanted international students to stay after graduation so they could use their skills and contribute to the economy rather than returning home. The equivalent figure for the UK was 74 per cent.

Nearly 70 per cent of Scots also want universities to expand the recruitment of international students in future compared to 58 per cent in the rest of the UK.

When asked how long international students should be allowed to stay, 60 per cent of Scots said it should be at least two years.

The survey by Universities UK comes as the body launches new proposal for a post-study work visa for international students.

The proposed arrangements would allow international students to work in the UK for up to two years after graduating.

Currently, there are strict eligibility rules for post-study work in the UK, involving high costs for both students and employers and various time restrictions.

Universities are also concerned that the impact of Brexit will see fewer students from EU countries.

Universities UK said the scheme would allow more employers in Scotland to access talented graduates from around the word, addressing workforce shortages and skills gaps in many sectors and industries.

It would also make Scotland a more attractive destination for international students and graduates and allow it to compete with countries who have more attractive post-study work policies, such as the USA and Australia.

This summer, Australia overtook the UK’s market share for international students for the first time pushing the UK into third place for international student recruitment.

Professor Richard Williams, principal of Heriot-Watt University and convener of Universities Scotland’s international committee, said: "Scotland is a sought after study destination and the country benefits educationally, socially, culturally and economically from talented international students.

"We could all benefit more if students from overseas were allowed to stay on after they graduate and work for a few years before returning home.

"As a welcoming and inclusive nation, Scotland has much to gain from international students with high-level skills. We know there is support for this amongst employers as well as the public."

Universities UK new policy proposal comes in the same month as the Migration Advisory Committee is expected to publish its recommendations on following a length consultation into the impact of international students in the UK.

The study, conducted by ComRes, interviewed 4,302 adults across the UK and Northern Ireland in August this year.

Other findings included the fact only one quarter of respondents viewed an international student coming to study at a UK university as an "immigrant".

The study concluded: "British adults are more likely to think of people other than students or researchers as immigrants."

Some 35 per cent of respondents across the UK said they wanted to see more international students, 40 per cent wanted numbers to stay the same and 13 per cent wanted fewer.

In January a report suggested international students generate nearly £2 billion to the Scottish economy in tuition fees and wider spending.

The report by London Economics, on behalf of the Higher Education Policy Institute, found overseas students at Scottish universities generated £1.94 billion.

The analysis, compiled to demonstrate the potential loss of tougher Home Office immigration controls on overseas students, found the combined UK benefit of the 231,000 new overseas students recruited each year across the UK was a combined £22.6 billion.