UK universities call for reviving post-study work visa popular with Indians
A visa rule popular with Indian students, which allowed them to work for two years after completing studies, should be revived to send a more welcoming message to international students at a time when Brexit is looming, UK universities said on Tuesday.
The provision, scrapped in 2012 when Prime Minister Theresa May was home secretary in the David Cameron government, allowed self-financing Indian students to recover some of the high costs of studying in the UK by working and gaining experience.
However, it was closed followed by some evidence that the route was being misused by bogus colleges that were admitting Indian and other non-EU students for purposes of employment rather than studies. Its closure led to a drop of more than 50% in Indian students.
Universities UK (UUK), the umbrella body representing all British varsities, said students should be allowed the same two years after completing studies, which will also benefit British employers when uncertainty linked to Brexit is leading to a dwindling labour pool.
UUK said reviving the provision will enable the UK to compete with other popular destinations such as the US, Australia and Canada, who have more welcoming student visa policies, including post-study work facilities.
The timing of UUK’s call is significant. The key Migration Advisory Committee, which advises the government on immigration, is due to report on the impact of international students this month.
There have been growing demands from members of May's cabinet and others to exclude international students – worth £26 billion to the British economy – from migration numbers, since the overwhelming majority leave after their studies.
UUK president Janet Beer, who is vice-chancellor of the University of Liverpool, said: "The ability to work in a skilled job for a limited period after graduation is, for many prospective international students, an important part of the overall package when deciding where to study.
"This improved post-study visa would put us on a par with what is offered by countries such as the US, Canada and Australia. It would send a more welcoming message to international students and signal that the UK is open to talented individuals from around the world.”
Currently, students must find a job with a salary of at least £20,800 with an employer with a Tier 2 sponsor licence within four months of completing their course, or find sponsorship as an entrepreneur, which most find difficult to obtain. PhD students can stay for a year after obtaining their degree.
A Home Office spokeswoman said: "There is no limit on the number of genuine international students who can come to study in the UK. We recognise the cultural and financial contribution which international students make to the UK, which is why we have developed an excellent post-study offer.”