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UK should double duration of PSW visa to recover HE sector – former minister

The UK’s former universities minister, Jo Johnson, has recommended doubling the duration of the post-study work visa from two to four years among a range of measures that would help the UK higher education sector overcome the shocks of Covid-19 and Brexit.

Former universities minister Jo Johnson. Photo: Flickr/British High Commission, New Delhi.

"The UK is in a good position to take market share from the US in India"

He also wants the UK to double the number of Indian students the country attracts by 2024.

In a report published by the Policy Institute at King’s College London and the Harvard Kennedy School, Johnson warned that the anticipated 50-75% drop in international students as a result of coronavirus would expose “real vulnerabilities” in university finances.

“We need to go all out to achieve ambitious education export goals”

The brother of prime minister Boris Johnson said universities have long been tied down by “bureaucracy, obsessions with poorly-crafted immigration targets and petty rules”, pointing out that the UK’s international student numbers rose by just 0.3% in 2016 and  0.9% in 2017.

To overcome this, Johnson recommends that the government recommit to existing 2030 exports targets outlined in the International Education Strategy – and create an additional goal for the UK to be the number one study destination worldwide after the US.

“For many years, the top three destinations for international students have been the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia. But recently global student mobility has begun to shift,” he wrote in the report.

“The UK’s market share declined in 17 out of the world’s 21 top sending countries between 2010 and 2017.

“By contrast, Australia has now seen steady year-on-year growth of around 14% and might soon catch up with the UK in terms of total overseas numbers if it has not done so already.”

Image: Universities open to the world report

To maintain its foothold as a top student destination, Johnson said that it is vital to send a clear signal that Britain is open and welcome, with a “best-in-class student visa offer”.

To achieve this, he said, the government should “turbocharge” the competitiveness of the UK visa offer with the doubling of post-study work visas from two to four years.

He also suggested that the UK should seek to rebalance its mix of international students coming by doubling Indian student numbers by 2024.

Johnson acknowledged that the UK has made strides in appealing to Indian students after a steep decline following the removal of the PSW visa in 2012.

The government should take heed of the fact that the number of Tier 4 study visas for Indian students increased 136% to almost 50,000 in the year to March 2020, he counselled.

“[Boris[ is a strong supporter of international students and always has been”

He added that reversing the Home Office’s “continued and deeply unpopular” exclusion of India from its low-risk Tier 4 visa list – which allows students from China and certain other countries a streamlined visa process – should also be a priority.

“The UK is in a good position to take market share from the US in India and a further improvement in the post-study work offer would help the sector overcome new concerns about studying in the UK that have arisen in the wake of Covid-19,” he said.

“A Tier 4 visa that promises four years of post-study work rights will be of huge advantage to the UK in India, where students are particularly sensitive to this opportunity.”

Among his other recommendations, Johnson – who was appointed chairman of the advisory board to ApplyBoard in February – also wants to re-focus the British Council on education promotion and build a StudyUK alumni network to “leverage its international alumni”.

“International education is one of the UK’s few globally competitive sectors,” said Johnson in a statement.

“The moment has come to ensure that the UK’s great universities can play their full part in this next chapter of Britain’s engagement with the world beyond its shores.”

When asked if the UK was too reliant on China, in an interview with BBC Radio 4, he commented that beyond a focus on India, “I recommend we increase significantly the number of students from other key countries such as Nigeria and Malaysia to rebalance the mix.”

Asked if brother Boris was receptive to Johnson’s agenda, he replied, “He’s a strong supporter of international students and always has been.

“He’s got the report. He’s received it. And, you know, I’m sure he’ll be getting round to reading it as and when he has a chance.”

Laura Rettie, vice president of global communications at education consultancy Studee commented: “Brexit and now the pandemic has been the perfect storm, plunging many [universities] to the brink of collapse.

“The government must offer support to keep them afloat – time is of the essence as UK universities slide further down the rankings.”

Nearly three-quarters of universities in the UK dropped down places in the list of the latest QS World University Rankings.


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23 Responses to UK should double duration of PSW visa to recover HE sector – former minister

  1. I am planning on being within the first group to benefit from the PSW Visa in summer 2021. Although reports are looking good, I am still highly concerned if it gets delayed and is not ready in time. Still, this would be amazing and I am curious if a four-year extension is not final by 2021, then those of us with the PSW could apply for an extension if it did go into affect before 2023.

  2. Ha, this looks like a joke from Jo Johnson. When there is no guarantee about the 2-year PSW starting from the summer of 2021, he is talking about a 4-year PSW. I am an Indian and I am happy that India is excluded from the low-risk list because not all Indians are genuine students, some come with the intention of making money while they have a valid visa and after its expiry of staying illegally.

    • If I had known that UK was this much receptive as supportive to students I would have very well done my MBA from UK in 2008 and probably I would be still working in UK.

      I got accepted by an American Private University in 2007,who asked me to switch to full time MBA from full time job when I was working in Los.Angeles as a.programmer since 7 yrs.They offered scholarship etc but after 3 months they withdrew all these SOPs.Not all universities in USA are like that I agree.But some are pure evil.They just eye the dollars and once they bankroll some,they will move towards the next batch.
      But UK is different with respect to students.Providing a 4 years work permit iafter just one year post graduation program will make it that much attractive to students.Yhis could very well be a way to handle lack of qualified workers due to BRExit

  3. Boris John will become favourite prime minister like Trudeau Canada PM, so they will always get good blessings by international student

      • Coming out of BREXIT,UK will need students who complete study in UK for a year and then work there.Studentd coming to postgrad degree in UK already have bachelor’s and many yrs work.experience,good English speaking,IELTS etc,right age group.In fact,UK could also do well by giving work permit to workers who worked in countries like USA, Singapore for at least 6 yrs, exhausted 6 yrs work visa and now do not have work permit to USA.Since USA is not giving greencards to those workers,UK could offer them work permit. and have a requirement that they do a post graduate course evening/weekend which will help them to adjust to UK society.This is my suggestion

  4. The UK government can start by making a streamlined visa process for Indian Tier 4 applicants who hold unconditional offer from their universities.

  5. I would be one of the best decision for UK and International Students both in side. I could say UK could get unexpected number of students within short time frame if they extend their PSW for 4years. As a Education Consultant, I should say, UK must implement Streamlined Visa Process to get genuine student from India. In Nepal, Nepalese agents are already implementing their SVP policy as like Australia to UK market as per the govt. norms and Education ministry guidelines to filter genuine students.. Best wishes from Nepal and welcome the proposal of 4yrs PSW..

    • This is also good way to handle students and their parents who.could.very well be funnelling 10 yrs savings towards education

  6. Hmm. PSW visa of four years is great news. We just wish the Tier 4 visa process could be more favourable for African students as well. There are some real genuine students in East Africa that would be a good addition to the UK International student community. International Education Agents could be more vigilant in vetting the students sent over to the UK to minimise abuse of the same.
    The return of PSW visa is indeed welcome.

  7. That would be great decision for upcoming students. But what about those who will finish their degree in sep 2020 and they served UK in this crisis situation by working as a frontline worker in health and social care.

  8. It’s a WIn Win situation, its a very simple equation, as a student, He / She will also spend on various necessities and contribute towards economy .

  9. Hi,
    What about the students who have already done Masters from United kingdom and left to their countries due to lack of visa and not provided PSW.I think they should also consider about previous students.

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