Post-study visa route dominated by Indians should stay, finds UK review

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Posted on May 16, 2024


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A review commissioned by the British government concluded in a report on Tuesday that the post-study visa route, which is dominated by Indian graduates, is expanding the country’s research landscape and helping UK universities make up for financial losses on the home front.

UK Home Secretary James Cleverly had given the independent Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) the responsibility of conducting a quick review of the relatively new Graduate Route visa, which permits overseas students to remain in the country for up to two years after receiving their degree in order to hunt for employment and obtain work experience.

It was shown that Indian students are the most prevalent in this category of visas, accounting for 89,200 visas between 2021 and 2023, or 42% of all awards. The visa was identified as the “overwhelming decision point” in their selection of a location for higher education.

Professor Brian Bell, the chair of the MAC, stated, “Our review recommends the Graduate Route should remain as it is and is not undermining the quality and integrity of the UK’s higher education system.”

“One of the main components of the invitation we provide to overseas students to study in the UK is the Graduate Route. Universities use the fees these students pay to offset the costs of conducting research and teaching British students. He continued, “Many universities would have to close their doors and less research would be done without those students.

Bell responded, “That’s almost certainly the case,” when asked if there would be a substantial impact on the number of Indian students studying in the UK if this post-study option was changed. “Our data indicates that the students from India will be the most impacted by any limitations on the Graduate Route,” he said.

Bell’s review continues by highlighting the “complex interaction” that exists between immigration policy and higher education policy. It also presents the government with a number of recommendations, such as requiring universities to verify the course outcome for international students they enroll and instituting a mandatory registration system for international recruitment agents whose “poor practices” might be misrepresenting UK higher education.

Indian student organizations in the UK, who provided testimony to the MAC review, expressed concern over an unjust suppression of this post-study opportunity, which is deemed essential for Indian students to select UK universities over other options.

The ability to obtain work experience for a few years is the primary factor that influences 70% of Indian students’ decisions to study in Australia, Canada, the UK, or the United States, according to Sanam Arora, Chair of the National Indian Students and Alumni Union (NISAU) UK. “We spent a fair bit of time explaining the distinction between ‘work’ and ‘work experience,'” according to Arora.

The report’s emphasis on “data over rhetoric” and its illumination of the “current sad state of international recruitment practices” were warmly received by the Indian National Students Association (INSA) UK.

INSA UK President Amit Tiwari stated, “The document clearly illustrates how international fees help UK universities stay afloat as well as how the Graduate visa makes studying in the UK more attractive.”

When making immigration policy decisions, the government often considers the recommendations made by MAC; nonetheless, diaspora organizations worry that there may still be limitations on the UK’s post-study offer.

For international students who want to use their abilities in the UK job market, the Graduate Route is essential. The review has resulted in a chaotic state of uncertainty. The Head of Thought Leadership at NISAU UK, Vignesh Karthik, continued, “We want the government to acknowledge the MAC’s conclusions and guarantee the Graduate Route stays a constant and long-term fixture in the UK’s immigration system.

The Home Office stated that it is “very closely” examining the review’s conclusions and will provide a thorough response when the time comes.

“The UK government commissioned an independent review of the Graduate Route because we are committed to attracting the best and brightest to study at our world-class universities while preventing abuse of our immigration system,” a spokeswoman for the government stated.

The majority of those on the Graduate Route visa route completed post-graduate taught courses, according to the report “Rapid Review of the Graduate Route.” Additionally, the growth in numbers is primarily attributable to second-tier institutions, or UK universities outside the Russell Group, which account for 66% of all Graduate Route visas.

The age distribution of those enrolled in the Graduate Route showed an increase in the proportion of adults over 25 by about 15 percentage points, reaching 54% at the latest. But the Home Office’s recent crackdown on foreign students using their visas to sponsor family members is probably going to have an impact on this.

The review concludes that “under the current funding models for higher education across the UK, the Graduate Route is supporting the government’s International Education Strategy and helping universities to expand the range of courses offered while making up for financial losses on domestic students and research.”

Additionally, the MAC discovered that holders of Graduate Route visas are initially overrepresented in lower-paying jobs; however, as they progress to Skilled Worker visas, their outcomes, including incomes, gradually improve. Nigerians, Chinese, and Pakistanis are the other nations topping the list besides Indians.

Ahead of the anticipated general election later this year, the government stated that it wished to make sure individuals using this visa path contributed to the UK economy. Immigration, both legal and illegal, is a major problem.