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UK Universities minister backs UUK’s call for post-study work visa

UPDATE: UK Universities minister Sam Gyimah has pledged his support for Universities UK’s proposed post-study visa for international students.

Earlier in 2018 Gyimah pledged support for national campaign to double the number of UK students who study abroad by 2020. Photo: The PIE News

This is not the first time that UK universities have called for the reintroduction of a post-study work visa

Speaking at the UUK annual conference in Sheffield, Gyimah said he “welcomes UUK post-study work visa proposal”, and that the forthcoming MAC report “offers us an opportunity to ensure our policy on student migration recognises the contribution that overseas students make to our universities, our balance of trade and our communities”.

Earlier this week, UUK called for the government to reintroduce the post-study visa to give the UK a competitive edge over rival countries and help it maintain the 450,000 international students in Britain every year.

The call comes as a new poll from research consultancy ComRes revealed an increase in support for international students and graduates in the UK.

“This improved post-study visa would put us on a par with what is offered by countries such as the US, Canada and Australia”

UUK estimates that 35% of non-EU graduates would take up the offer, which would equate to 54,000 students according to the latest data available. This is based off the numbers who chose to transfer visa category in 2010-11.

Nearly three quarters (72%) of  UK adults polled said they believe that international students should be able to stay in the UK post-graduation for one year or more to gain work experience.

“It would also make the UK a more attractive destination for international students and graduates, enabling it to compete with other popular destinations such as the United States, Australia and Canada, who have more welcoming student visa policies,” said UUK in a statement.

In 2012, the government scrapped the visa which had allowed non-EU students to stay in the UK and work for up to two years after graduation, which may have had a significant impact on prospective applicants from certain countries, including India.

The two-year work visa would allow a wider range of employers in all parts of the UK to benefit from access to talented graduates from around the world, including small and medium employers who do not have Tier 2 sponsorship licences, usually due to the high costs and bureaucracy involved.

Currently, the US and Canada offer international graduates the opportunity to stay and work for up to three years after graduation, and Australia for up to four years.

New Zealand has recently announced reforms to its student visa policies and will now allow all international graduates to stay and work for up to three years, without the need for employer sponsorship.

This is not the first time that UK universities have called for the reintroduction of a post-study work visa.

In July, a new lobbying effort was launched by the UK’s international HE sector body via a new report that identified the high turnover of international students in the UK, compared to other destinations.

With 54% of the international population being first-year students (compared to just 35% in the US), the document stated that the UK market needs to invest annually in “significant marketing effort related to student recruitment”.

“The rapid turnover of international students also indicates the UK higher education system is more vulnerable to changes in global demand and the external environment,” it continued.

President of UUK and vice-chancellor of the University of Liverpool, Janet Beer, said the ability to work in a skilled job for a limited period after graduation is an important part of the overall package when deciding where to study.

“We are proposing a new graduate visa that would make the UK more attractive to students and would allow a wider range of employers, in all parts of the UK, to benefit from access to talented graduates from around the world,” she said.

“It will mean that UK students can develop a global mindset too”

“This improved post-study visa would put us on a par with what is offered by countries such as the US, Canada and Australia. It would send a more welcoming message to international students and signal that the UK is open to talented individuals from around the world.”

Beer added that as Brexit discussions continue, the UK needs an ambitious immigration policy that helps boost our regional and global competitiveness.

Other UK industry stakeholders made their support for a PSW visa clear, soon after the announcement.

Tim Bradshaw, chief executive of the Russell Group of UK research institutions praised international students for making a “huge contribution” to UK education and society. He added that the visa would make the country “the kind of nation we hope to be after Brexit”.

Chief Executive at the Institute of Student Employers, Stephen Isherwood, said that allowing talented international students to work for a period post-study in the UK will help employers, large and small, to fill skills gaps.

“As well as enabling growth, our universities will become more internationally competitive and it will mean that UK students can develop a global mindset too,” he added.

Recent studies have also shown the significant contribution international students make to towns and cities across Britain, including economic benefits worth £20.3 billion, or 10 times the costs of hosting them.

Backing UUK’s call for a new visa, pro-vice-chancellor International at Aston University Saskia Loer Hansen said the university strongly believes the proposal is an essential step to make the UK more attractive.

“It’s been detrimental to the whole of UK international education”

“Aston University strongly supports this proposal which we believe is an essential step to make Birmingham, and the whole of the UK, more attractive to the international students and graduates who make such a vital contribution to our community and economy,” she said.

“In an increasingly globalised world, we know also that these students and graduates bring not only investment but skills and perspectives which are valued by UK students and local employers.”

Speaking to The PIE News, chief executive of English UK Sarah Cooper said she “fully supports” the call from UUK to reconsider post-study work environment.

“It’s been detrimental to the whole of UK international education for that option not to be there for all students; even my students coming just for short stay English courses, many of them have an eye on the future,” said Cooper.

“They are thinking of higher education and they are thinking of how they can work in the UK for a short period after they finish to enhance what they have learned and to enhance their employability prospects once they return to their own countries.”

Meanwhile, universities and businesses in Sheffield – home of the University of Sheffield and its students’ union which founded the #WeAreInternational campaign– are also backing calls for the reintroduction of the post-study work visa.

Speaking on behalf of Sheffield Chamber of Commerce, executive director Richard Wright said:  “Making the UK and Sheffield more attractive to these talented young people is a win-win approach and will secure this vital inward investment for local industry and people.”

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