The UK government is allowing international students to stay up to one year after their study visa expires to find work in the UK.
It comes as part of a government initiative to increase recruitment by more than 30 percent and boost income to the sector from its current £20 billion per year to £35 billion per year, the government announced last week.
“The strategy includes a number of measures to help the sector maximise the potential of UK education exports abroad, including…Extending the period of post-study leave for international student visas, considering how the visa process could be improved for applicants and supporting student employment,” the UK government website notes.
According to the Department of Education, undergraduate and Master’s students will be able to stay for six months post-graduation, while doctoral candidates will be able to stay up to one year. All graduates currently get to stay for up to four months post-graduation, with PhD candidates can apply for an additional year.
It also states there will be more support for getting international students into employment, hinting at a policy change from the country’s current “hostile environment” policy which deters international students from working in the UK.
As Brexit looms, UK universities are bracing for their financial coffers to shrink. They stand not only to lose a pool of EU students post-Brexit, but also the European Research Development Fund – a specially-allocated investment that funds a substantial number of projects amounting to more than £26,627,123 between 2014-2020 – across higher education providers in the UK.
To offset this, leading universities are looking to recruit more non-EU students, especially those from China and India, according to Sir Anton Muscatelli, Vice-Chancellor of Glasgow University and Chairman of the Russell Group.
“As we prepare to leave the EU it is more important than ever to reach out to our global partners and maximise the potential of our best assets – that includes our education offer and the international students this attracts,” Education Secretary, Damian Hinds, said in a statement.
The new UK International Education Strategy also includes the appointment of a new International Education Champion, a £5 million GREAT Challenge Fund to promote the entire UK education sector internationally, better data on education exports and closer relationships between government departments.
Universities UK, the representative organisation for UK’s universities, welcomed the visa extension, noting, however, that it could be extended further.
“We would like the government to go further and extend this opportunity to at least two years and we will continue to urge them on this point.”
“To hit the new target we would clearly need some new policies even if things like Brexit didn’t threaten current successes” @nickhillman @HEPI_news casts a sceptical if mildly apprecaitive eye over the Government’s new International Education Strategyhttps://t.co/2sxxuD2Ar8
— Mary Curnock Cook (@MaryCurnockCook) March 17, 2019
Chief Executive of UKCISA (UK Council for International Student Affairs) told The PIE News: “The big news is the numerical target.
“If all government departments, including and especially the Home Office, got behind this and simplified our massively complex visa rules, we could really start to motor.”
Indian students, however, are less impressed with the announcement. Calling it a “lollipop” to entice international students, former De Montfort University student, Nimesh D Soni, who graduated in 2011, said it was “a joke” to expect students to land a job within six months.
“The purpose behind the post-study work permit is to gain work experience and recover education costs, mostly through loans. Who would get a highly paid job after their degree?” he told Times of India.
“It took me nine months to get a proper job after finishing my studies. At least two years would be appropriate. This is just a lollipop,” Nimesh said.
Another student, Malhar Khushu, who is currently reading biochemistry at Oxford, suggested that the real motive behind the visa extension move is clear.
“The UK sees international students as cash cows to profit from. This statement, while appearing benevolent, is clearly aimed at using international students to boost the post-Brexit British economy. If they really wanted to improve their international numbers, lowering the cost of international fees would very easily do the trick,” he said.