UUKi Director Vivienne Stern comments:
“This report is a step in the right direction. The report recommends some significant changes which would relax the rules for those who want to stay and work in the UK post-graduation. It recognises the contribution that international students make to the UK, and emphasises the importance of giving them ‘a reasonable opportunity to find a graduate job after completion of their studies.’
Proposals to automatically allow PhD students to stay in the UK for a year after graduating, to extend the post-study leave period to six months for masters students and to expand the job search window for students on Tier 4 visas are all positive. Proposals that Tier 4 student graduates should be entitled to a two-year period during which they can apply out-of-country for a Tier 2 visa, under the same rules as current in-country Tier 4 to Tier 2 switches, will also make it easier for international students to work in the UK after graduating.”
However, the proposals on post-study work opportunities do not go far enough. I welcome the recognition in the report of a need for further work in this area. The higher education sector in the UK is committed to gathering evidence which supports a change in our post-study work offer. We will redouble our efforts to build upon the positive changes proposed in this report.”
The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) report is available to download from the MAC website.
In 2016-17, 442,375 international students made up 19% of all students registered at UK universities (6% from the EU and 13% from non-EU countries). The income and economic activity of these students resulted in £25.8 billion in output and 206,600 jobs for the UK economy in 2014-15 alone. International students also enhance the academic experience of domestic students and add to the UK’s soft power abroad, with 57 current world leaders having been educated in the UK.
In other countries, it is widely accepted that international students are temporary citizens whereas in the UK they are categorised alongside those who have a route to staying in the UK permanently. For example, in the USA international students are classified as non-immigrants alongside tourists, business visitors and those on cultural exchange programmes, in Australia they are classified as temporary migrants alongside tourists and visitors and in Canada they are classified as temporary residents.
In terms of international student enrolments, countries such as USA, Australia, France and Germany all continue to grow at a faster rate than the UK, with growth rates in 2014-15 of 9.4%, 10.7%, 1.8% and 8.7% respectively. Over the same period, the UK’s international enrolments grew by just 0.5%. See the latest International Facts & Figures publication.
During its annual conference last week, Universities UK called for a new visa to allow international students to gain work experience in the UK for up to two years after graduation. In 2012, the UK government scrapped the post-study work visa which had allowed international (non-EU) students to stay in the UK and work for up to two years after graduation. The new visa would allow a wider range of employers – in all parts of the UK – to benefit from access to talented graduates from around the world, including small and medium employers who do not have Tier 2 sponsorship licences, usually due to the high costs and bureaucracy involved.
A new poll published last week from ComRes, based on the views of more than 4,000 British adults, revealed also that in relation to the UK government's immigration policy, only a quarter (25%) of British adults say that they view international students coming to study at UK universities as immigrants. It revealed also that nearly three quarters (72%) of British adults polled think that international students should be able to stay in the UK post-graduation for one year or more to gain work experience.
Universities UK (UUK) is the collective voice of 136 universities in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Its mission is to create the conditions for UK universities to be the best in the world; maximising their positive impact locally, nationally and globally. Universities UK acts on behalf of universities, represented by their heads of institution. Visit: www.universitiesuk.ac.uk
As part of UUK, Universities UK International (UUKi) represents UK higher education institutions (HEIs) globally and helps them flourish internationally. To do this we actively promote UK HEIs abroad, provide trusted information for and about them, and create new opportunities through our unique ability to act at sector level. We draw on UK university expertise to influence policy in the UK and overseas, delivering information, advice and guidance to facilitate mutually beneficial collaboration between UK HEIs and a broad range of international partners. www.international.ac.uk @UUKIntl