The document recommends that the UK government introduce a “more competitive” post-study work offer, which considers the ease of applying, program length, work entitlement and opportunities for applying to the program after leaving the UK.
“The UK’s… post-study work offer is far less attractive than in its competitor countries”
Reintroducing a flexible post-study work program will be effective in attracting and retaining international students in the short-term, the review suggested.
However, the review highlighted that an attractive post-study work offer alone is not sufficient to ensure long-term retention of international students.
“If a given country aims at retaining international students longer-term, it should develop additional policies or strategies that would encourage students to extend their stay,” the paper read.
Additional measures to ensure long term retention of international talent should include language and integration support, affordable healthcare and housing, UK employment information and advice, and help to create opportunities for establishing professional networks, it continued.
“International students’ decisions to stay longer-term depend on a wide variety of factors, including employment opportunities, ties developed in the host country, and how they feel there.”.
It also noted that the program should be systematically monitored to prevent its potential misuse and negative impact on the beneficiaries, while also to evaluate its effectiveness.
Author of the report, Paulina Trevena of the University of Glasgow explained that opportunities for gaining work experience are important for international students.
“The UK’s current and proposed post-study work offer is far less attractive than in its competitor countries. Brexit and the negative atmosphere around immigration also discourage international students from coming to the UK, especially those from EU countries,” she said.
“If the UK government aims to keep a competitive edge in attracting and retaining global talent, it should consider revising migration policies towards international students and strengthen practical support for those wishing to stay.”
The report looked at work benefits that international students were offered after graduation in popular destination countries such as New Zealand, Australia, Canada and the US. Other countries the review studied were France, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands and Sweden.
In 2019, applications from outside the EU rose by 9% on last year according to Scottish Qualifications Authority figures, with commentators suggesting a weaker pound and increasingly sophisticated recruitment and marketing strategies had driven enrolments.
According to government ministers, a more generous post-study work offer could increase enrolments further, and also benefit the country.
Scottish National Party MSP and migration minister Ben Macpherson said that like many other developed countries, Scotland’s ageing population and labour shortages mean the country needs to attract highly skilled labour.
“Brexit and the UK government are making this worse, as the UK looks increasingly insular and less attractive,” he said.
“We will continue to press for the reintroduction of a post-study work route in Scotland”
“The Scottish government has long argued for the return of the post-study work visa, to allow students studying for all degrees at bachelor level and above to be able to remain in the UK for two years after graduating.”
Scotland increasingly needs tailored immigration policies to meet needs that are not being adequately delivered by the UK government, Macpherson added.
“The evidence and our experience to date show that we hugely benefit from migration, and new Scots settling here, supporting our economy and enriching our communities.
“We will continue to press for the reintroduction of a post-study work route in Scotland so that people who study here can then build their lives and careers here.”