UK universities demand work visas for overseas graduates
Primary demand is to stay in the country to work for up to two years after graduation, British universities have called on the government to reintroduce a visa that would allow overseas students. Over rival countries, they say it would give the UK a competitive edge and help it maintain the 450,000 international students, 134,835 of them EU-born, who come to study in Britain every year.
In a briefing to parliament recently, Universities UK, the sector’s umbrella body, “The UK remains an extremely popular destination for international students, attracting more students from abroad except the much larger US.
“However, at a faster rate than the UK, the UK’s closest competitors, such as the USA, Australia, France and Germany, all continue to grow.”
The visa would be an important source of soft power in the post-Brexit era said, Sir Steve Smith, the vice-chancellor of Exeter University and chairman of Universities UK’s international policy network at the launching proposals for a time-limited visa.
The UK rate was 0.5% while student numbers in 2014-15 rose by 9.4% in the US, 10.7% in Australia and 8.7% in Germany.
To reduce net migration, he acknowledged the government’s long-held pledge to the “tens of thousands”, but said reintroducing a special post-study visa would send a “hell of a signal” to the rest of the world that Britain was a welcoming country.
“In international education, I think we are in danger of losing our position as one of the world leaders,” he said. “The UK is flatlining in terms of international students despite holding a buoyant market.
“The UK should be able affirmative to the overseas graduates that, as a country, it needs to make it clear that international students are absolutely welcome. When we are 29 weeks from Brexit allegedly, I think now is the time to make a grand statement about welcoming in a new era where global talent can come to this country, study, work afterward and thereby deal with the number-one issue with the economy, which is productivity, allowing those skilled workers to enter the workforce.”
To stay and work in the country for two years, in 2012, the UK abandoned the post-study visa that had allowed graduates as the then home secretary, Theresa May, led a crackdown on student overstayers.
But her claim that up to 100,000 foreign students were failing to return home, fuelling concerns that post-study work visas were a back door to immigration, have been discredited, said Smith, with recent exit information showing 97% of students whose visas expired in 2018 “left on time”.
Restricted as students must find a job with a salary of at least £20,800 at an employer, with a Tier 2 sponsor license within four months of completing, Universities UK pointed out that this is their course, or find sponsorship as an entrepreneur. Ph.D. students are separately able to stay for up to 12 months following completion of their degree.