Let foreign graduates work for two years - Universities UK

Universities UK have proposed a 'temporary global graduate talent' visa which would require no employer sponsorship. How would this new post-university visa work?

two female students studying outside a brick building
The body representing British universities is calling for a change in the country's immigration laws to allow overseas students to work in the country for two years after graduating.If introduced, the change proposed by Universities UK, whose annual conference opened in Sheffield on Tuesday, would effectively re-introduce the post-study work visa, which used to give graduates from non-EU nations the automatic right to work in the UK for two years, but was scrapped by the government six years ago.

The North American post-graduate visa system

Currently, international students graduating in both the US and Canada can remain and work in the countries for up to three years, while in Australia they can stay for four. As a consequence of this, the three countries have seen their numbers of overseas students increase by 40 per cent-plus since 2011, while the UK increase has been only three per cent.Universities UK says its research in countries such as India has shown the ability to stay on after graduating is a major attraction to students.Although it is still possible for students to stay in Britain after graduating, the jobs they take have to have sponsorship from a company and there are thresholds on minimum pay.Under the Universities UK proposal, a 'temporary global graduate talent' visa would be introduced under which no employer sponsorship would be required - instead, all higher education institutions registered as Tier 4 sponsors would be able to sponsor their graduates to search for and gain work experience for up to two years, without restriction on job level or salary.Time spent under the new visa would not count towards entitlement for applying for settlement in the UK.

Prof Sir Steve Smith: The UK should be open to talent

Prof Sir Steve Smith, who chairs Universities UK international policy network and is vice-chancellor at the University of Exeter, said: "We think it is what the country needs - it would send a hell of a signal about the role of the UK in the future world, as somewhere that was welcoming to students...that they were welcome to stay on afterwards to work."We think the timing of this proposal is exactly right, precisely because we think whatever happens in the next 29 weeks (until Brexit), the UK needs a message about the world."What we are trying to do is put our offer on a par with our major competitors and to say that despite the trials and tribulations of Brexit, the UK and its universities are one of the great systems of the world."We see no reason why that simply should not be open to talented individuals. Especially when we now know that they come to study, maybe stay on a little bit to work, and then leave. It is not Brexit in terms of the details of Brexit - it is the hostile environment."Sir Steve said that while the UK remained the second most popular destination, after the US, for international students, Australia was now challenging this position, according to a study this summer by UCL.In the 2016-2017 academic year, 442,375 international students made up almost a fifth of all students at UK universities. Six per cent of the students were from the EU and 13 per cent from non-EU countries.China is the biggest source of foreign students in the UK, with about 95,000 students. There are about 17,000 students from India, but Universities UK says this number has halved over the past five years.

The economic benefits of foreign students to the UK

Universities UK inforgraphic about the benefits international students bring to the UK in png format
© Universities UK
The organisation estimates spending by overseas students supports more than 200,000 jobs, with an economic impact worth £25.8 billion, including £1 billion in tax revenues.The government ended the previous system giving all graduates the right to stay on for work for two years amid claims that many of them were using it as a backdoor route to stay permanently in the UK.But Sir Steve rejected such claims, saying they had proved to be "factually incorrect" and that the latest data showed that 98 per cent of overseas students complied with their visa requirements.
A Home Office spokesman said, "There is no limit on the number of genuine international students who can come to study in the UK."We recognise the cultural and financial contribution which international students make to the UK, which is why we have developed an excellent post-study offer."Graduates can stay if they get a graduate level job, get an internship or apply to set up a business in the UK. Completing PhD students are also able to stay for an additional year to gain work experience or set up as an entrepreneur."For related news and features, visit our Immigration and Brexit sections.
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