A new two-year pilot project at three British universities that allows Indian and other non-EU students extra time to find employment after their course ends has received a cautious welcome on the ground that it does not address the real issue.
The Home Office introduced the pilot in July for academic years starting September 2016 and September 2017, under which non-European Union students will be able to remain in Britain for six months after their course ends.
The pilot runs at the universities of Oxford, Cambridge and Bath and Imperial College London for postgraduate courses.
The closure of the two-year post-study work visa in 2012 was considered one of the key reasons for a sharp drop in the number of Indian students coming to British universities in recent years. Self-financing students used the work visa to recover some of the costs of courses.
Under current rules, non-EU students are allowed a two-month stay after the course ends; the pilot extends it to six months. Official sources said the pilot seeks to streamline the student visa process for non-EU students.
Sanam Arora of the National Indian Students and Alumni Union (UK) told Hindustan Times: “While we are supportive of the scheme in general, the key aim seems to be around enabling students to find employment opportunities by giving them a slightly longer time period. This addresses the wrong issue.
“The issue is that students are discriminated against the moment they disclose they will require visa sponsorship. Many students time and again lose out on job offers that they achieve much earlier on, often during the course of their studies – purely because they need a visa.”
Employers seeking to hire non-EU students need to pass a “Resident Labour Market” test, under which they need to demonstrate there is no one in Britain or the EU who could do the job advertised.
“The test makes it extremely difficult and costly for employers to take on international students, and these things are the crux of the issue, not necessarily the time element. Regardless it’s a welcome move, but the actual impact on international student employment rate remains to be seen,” Arora said.
Several higher education stakeholders, including universities, have lobbied unsuccessfully with the government to restore the post-study work visa. Scotland sought a similar visa for non-EU students enrolling at universities there, but it was rejected by London.
Scottish leaders regretted that Scottish universities were not included in the pilot.