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Graduate Route safe, but “rogue” agents targeted

Home Office confirms that the Graduate Route will not be changed or axed, but instead promises “crackdown” on rogue agents.
May 23 2024
4 Min Read

The UK Home Office has revealed new proposals to “crack down” on student visas – and while the Graduate Route will remain “under review”, it’s not going anywhere before the upcoming election.

  • The Home Office said the Graduate Route would remain “under review”, but no action would be taken on it
  • Rogue agents have become the new target of the government, with promises to “smash” their business model
  • Financial maintenance requirements will be raised, with English language assessments levels “under review”

Together with the Education Secretary Gillian Keegan, Home Secretary James Cleverly has said that rogue agents who are recruiting international students will “have their business model smashed” – seeming not to add much further detail.

But the government has confirmed it is following MAC’s advice and not restricting the graduate route in its current form.

A “stringent framework” for agents has also been announced – thought to be mandatory adoption of the AQF – which universities will have to sign up to if they are using agents to recruit.

“We must go further to make sure our immigration routes aren’t abused. That’s why we are cracking down on rogue international agents and, building on work across government, to ensure international students are coming here to study, not work,” said Cleverly.  

“We must go further to make sure our immigration routes aren’t abused”

James Cleverly, UK Home Secretary

Tougher compliance standards for universities are also set to be introduced – those who accept international students that then don’t pass visa checks, or don’t “enrol or complete their courses” would risk having their sponsor licence revoked, the Home Office said.

Like Canada, the financial maintenance requirements will also go up for international students (although this was not detailed in the current plan) and it also promised to review the English language assessments – including looking at standardising what it called “independent assessments”.

The government also suggested it has average graduate income in its sights, given the Conservative right-wing agenda suggesting the Graduate Route was a “backdoor to low skilled labour”. In its statement it said it “remains concerned that the route is not attracting the highest earners who contribute to our economy”.

“It will be a huge relief to international students and to our universities that the Graduate route will remain in place … we welcome the opportunity to work with government on proposals around agents, and on any measures that help ensure the public has confidence in our universities. But what’s needed now is a period of stability”, Jamie Arrowsmith, Director of UUKi told The PIE

“It is right that we strike the balance between controlling immigration and making sure the UK remains the ‘go to’ place for students around the world, supporting our brilliant universities and enabling the best and brightest to study here”, said education secretary Gillian Keegan.

The plans are largely what had been reported by the Financial Times on May 21, which said that the Graduate Route would be safe – and that agents would be the targets for crackdowns instead.

The reports earlier in the week came to the tentative relief of stakeholders.

Ministers told the newspaper that universities who “allow students to do all of their study abroad” only for the benefit of UK work opportunities post-degree will also be cracked down upon, but this detail is not entirely spelled out in the Home Office’s report.

“We are absolutely delighted and very relieved that the UK Government has taken the right decision to keep the Graduate route. This is critical for Indian students. Very pleased also that the focus will instead be on regulating agents”, Sanam Arora, NISAU UK chair and commissioner of the UK’s International Higher Education Commission told The PIE.

“We have been calling for this for years, recommended it to MAC and delighted that it will now be put into law. Its been a very intense few months for NISAU campaigning to defend the Graduate route for the second time in ten years. We can finally celebrate!”

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