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Competitors consider likely policy change in the UK

The UK has a less generous provision of post-study work rights for international students compared to some of its key competitors, the report of the Migration Advisory Committee stated, while its regulations for part-time work while studying are similar to others.

The availability of post-study work rights is one of the factors impacting on students' choices. Photo:

The Canadian reaction has been gleeful in some quarters

At the moment, all graduate students can stay in the UK for four months after course completion and switch to a Tier 2 visa provided they have received a job offer from a registered sponsor and they comply with minimum salary requirements.

The recommendations in the MAC report – including six month visa extension for all MSc graduates, a one-year visa for PhDs post-graduation and a 2-year window for all international graduates to apply for Tier 2 employment – are a step in the positive direction, stakeholders have commented.

However, they fall short of UUK’s call for a post-study work visa category.

Simon Marginson, defining the report “strong on information and weak on the politics,” said that its recommendation to not restore PSW on the basis that demand for UK education should not be based on work rights is “nonsense”.

“Everyone knows that in some cases education intentions and migration intentions overlap, and anyway, international student families have to find some way of paying for the high cost of living and studying in UK,” he told The PIE News.

So will the proposed changes, more muted than the sector wanted, have an impact on student recruitment in other competitor countries?

Alex Usher, President of Higher Education Strategy Associates in Canada, does not think so.

“Canada has been a major beneficiary of Theresa May’s policies, not just as a PM but also as a home secretary,” he told The PIE.

“I sympathise with my UK colleagues, I know that they are fighting hard for a better deal for UK institutions, but as a Canadian – all I can say is that Theresa May is one of our greatest resources.”

Carmel Murphy, Executive Director International at the University of Melbourne, told The PIE that mooted new regulations wouldn’t have an impact on student recruitment in Australia.

“It’s good news that the door has been opened to…PSW given the door has been closed for so long”

“They haven’t gone far enough,” she said, adding that uncertainty around changing regulations could make students nervous.

She also pointed out that inclusion of students in net migration targets projects the wrong message for the UK as a destination country. “It just seems bizarre that students are kept in net migration figures because they are there on a different visa for different purposes,” she said.

IEAA CEO Phil Honeywood made the same point on net migration targets giving a mixed message on the status of international students in the country.

On proposed PSW changes, he said it’s “good news.”

“For the sake of UK’s universities and the sector, it’s good news that the door has been opened to recommendations to introduce post-study work rights, given the door has been closed for so long,” he said – noting New Zealand’s favourable policy shift in a PSW direction.

New Zealand recently overhauled its post-study work regulations, decoupling work visas from employers and giving graduates at bacherlor’s level and above a three-year open work visa.

This puts New Zealand up there with Canada and Australia for enabling access to the jobs market – certainly when considering length of study required as a prerequesite.

In Canada, students can apply for a post-study work visa if they have studied for more than eight months at a Designated Learning Institution. Length of visas vary according to the duration of the study, for a maximum of three years for students graduating from a 2-year course.

In the US, students can opt for a 1-year Optional Practical Training (with an extension for STEM graduates to two years) provided the job relates to their field of study.


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