The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for International Students, of which I am Co-Chair, has published a report today calling on the UK Government to publicly commit to maintaining the Graduate visa.
The report is the conclusion of an inquiry which I chaired to explore the effectiveness of the Graduate visa route, two years since its launch. I campaigned for the reintroduction of post-study work visa after Theresa May scrapped it when Home secretary in 2012, and the Graduate visa grants permission for international students who have studied at degree level to stay in the UK for two years after completing their course (three years for PhD students).
As well as seeking reassurance from Government on the future of the route, the report recommends that universities and colleges develop a national employability strategy to address the unique employment challenges faced by international graduates.
Uptake of the Graduate visa has been strong since its introduction on 1 July 2021, with a growing number of international students choosing this route to remain in the UK to take up employment opportunities.
However, the UK Government’s policy approach to reduce overall net migration – with international students included in migration figures, despite being temporary migrants – is raising concerns about the UK’s global standing as a study destination and the stability of the Graduate visa.
Changes announced in May 2023 prohibiting postgraduate taught students from bringing dependants to the UK, along with existing restrictions for undergraduate students, have created inequitable access to the visa and are damaging overall confidence in the route.
The report – The Graduate Visa: An Effective Post-Study Pathway for International Students in the UK – can be read here.
The report’s 10 recommendations are:
Recommendations for Government
- Government must publicly commit to maintaining the Graduate visa into the next Parliament.
- Government should commit to regular reviews of the global competitiveness and effectiveness of the Graduate visa as part of the annual review of the International Education Strategy.
- Government should ensure students don’t lose leave as they transition between Student and Graduate visas, and permit leave extensions for students registered on professional accreditation or extended graduate programmes.
- As part of their ambitions to grow higher technical education, the Department for Education should consider the role international students could play in addressing skills shortages and supporting local colleges.
- Government should maintain other routes for post-study work to provide choice and facilitate different outcomes. Clarification and simplification of the ways to switch routes will be key.
Recommendations for Higher Education Institutions
- A clear national strategy should be developed to address the unique employment challenges faced by international graduates and support the effectiveness of the Graduate visa.
- Higher education providers should play a proactive liaison role between students and local employers.
Recommendations for cooperation
- Government and the higher education sector must collaborate to endorse the Graduate visa and communicate it effectively to students and employers.
- A UK-wide international education data strategy should be developed jointly between Government, education institutions and stakeholder bodies, including evaluation of the impact of the Graduate visa across the student journey, and the economic and soft power contribution of international graduates.
- Institutions and employers should work together to mitigate the costs of the Graduate visa for students from lower- and middle-income backgrounds.