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UK post-study work ruling creates confusion, questions on deferring

Questions around eligibility and possibilities for deferment from incoming international students have been an unintended consequence of the UK’s announcement to re-introduce post-study work rights.

Questions around eligibility and possibilities for deferment from incoming international students have been an unintended consequence of the UK's announcement. Photo: Pexels

Whether master's students graduating from a January 2020 start will be eligible is still a grey area

While the UK sector has rejoiced at the PSW news, UKCISA’s chief executive, Anne-Marie Graham, confirmed to The PIE News that their phone hotline has been “inundated” by students wondering if they are eligible and some of those were considering moving their impending September 2019 start date in order to benefit.

“Everybody is thinking they will qualify for PSW [in January]… but we know we need to wait for the legislation”

“[Our] advice line has been inundated with queries of different kinds about how post-study work will apply to them, including some questions about perhaps deferring as well – particularly for one year masters,” said Graham.

“I think we’re seeing a spike in increase for January intake at the moment. So that’s where the queries are coming from.”

She explained that UKCISA – whose members work on the frontline dealing with international student issues and questions – has reached out to its members to ask for data on how many students are actually deferring.

“Without data, it’s just anecdotal at the moment,” she told The PIE.

At present, the government line is that “any student who is set to graduate from summer 2021 onwards should be eligible for post-study work”, confirmed Vivienne Stern at Universities UK International.

Whether those masters’ students graduating from a January 2020 start will be eligible is still a grey area and certainly not assured.

“We are urging the government to implement the new visa route as soon as they can, to ensure that as many current students as possible can benefit,” noted Stern.

“We would also like to see quick implementation of the extension of Tier 4 leave to remain to six months for undergraduates and masters’ students, and one year for PhDs, as previously announced in the International Education Strategy.”

But K C Raj, an education consultant sending high volumes of students to study in the UK from India, told The PIE that he anticipated that a large portion of UK-bound clients had considered deferring, typically until January 2020.

“Everybody is thinking they will qualify for PSW [in January],” he said, “But we, the consultants, know we need to wait for the legislation.”

He estimated that 75% of his UK-bound cohort at KCR Consultants had considered deferring.

Nonetheless, not all universities in the UK have seen such student activity.

At Aston University, Saskia Loer Hanson, pro-vice chancellor international, related, “We have not seen many actual deferrals at Aston.

“We had a significant number of enquiries from PGT students who had accepted an offer for the September start, asking about whether they would qualify for the post-study work visa and expressions of disappointment that they wouldn’t be covered.

“However, very few of these initial enquiries have resulted in subsequent deferrals.”

She continued, “We were concerned that this could have an adverse impact on our September starters, but thankfully it appears to not have had much of an impact. We are now focusing on making the most of the new Graduate Route opportunity for our 2020/21 intake.”

“I fully expect that there will be a number of students who will choose to delay their studies”

One other university commentator, who preferred not to be named, said, “I fully expect that there will be a number of students who will choose to delay their studies until Sept 20.  It will be just as interesting to see which regions are impacted, or whether it’s isolated to South Asia.”

Stern underlined, “We do recognise that some current students set to graduate before 2021 will be disappointed. Our message to them is: there are still options for you that will enable you to stay and work in the UK.

“We would urge you to seek support from your university and to explore the UK Council for International Student Affairs’ website,” she added.

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