The Tier 4 Pilot is open to students from all over the world applying for a master’s degrees at four elite universities: Imperial College London, University of Cambridge, University of Oxford and University of Bath.
It is tailored to master’s students who are applying for 2016/17 or 2017/18 intakes, with the duration of the course lasting 13 months or less.
“The ability to stay on for six months will bring benefits to the students and to the country”
Participating in the pilot means that less documental evidence will be required when students send their application.
“You will not be required to submit certificates or documents showing your previous qualifications or transcript of results and documents showing you meet the maintenance requirements,” the guidance says.
While students aren’t required to submit these alongside the initial application, UKVI may request these additional forms later on in the process.
The pilot also allows the master’s students to stay for six months after their course ends.
The scheme will be in place for visa applications submitted on or after July 25, and is open to those applying from inside the UK as well as from overseas.
Dependents of the main applicants who apply at the same time, are also eligible for this pilot scheme.
Dominic Scott, chief executive of the UK Council for International Student Affairs, said the organisation wasn’t consulted before the pilot was announced.
“‘We were briefed on what was to be announced a few days in advance and said that if the move represented a possible ‘direction of travel’ for future policy, with substantial numbers of others included if the pilot was successful, we thought it might be widely welcomed,” Scott told The PIE News.
But he was quick to add that “an extra couple of months, post-study, is certainly no replacement for Post-Study Work”.
“An extra couple of months, post-study, is certainly no replacement for Post-Study Work”
With just four universities and only certain postgraduate courses, the impact of the current scheme is limited, he said.
“[It] might even add one more layer of confusion (to students, parents, agents and employers) around which students can do what, where, when and how,” he said.
President of Imperial College London, Alice Gast, said that international students are a priority for the university, and called the move an “encouraging step forward”.
“The ability to stay on for six months will bring benefits to the students and to the country as our talented graduates will be able to pursue their entrepreneurial ideas, further study or add to the UK’s talent pool,” she said.
The programme has also been met with some criticism from Scottish institutions. Speaking to The National, Universities Scotland said it was pleased the government is trialling new ways to retain international talent in the UK, but expressed disappointment that “the opportunity of the pilot has been framed so narrowly to only four universities – none of which are in Scotland”.
The pilot is expected to continue for two years.