British universities want foreign students to stay back in the UK after graduation

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By Ananya Bhattacharya

British universities want foreign students to stay in the country even after graduation.

They want the government to bring back the post-study tier-4 visa that was scrapped in 2012, which allowed international graduates to work in the country for at least some time after completing their education. These institutions do not want to lose out to those in countries like Australia, Canada, the US, and New Zealand, all of which have this enabling provision.

This visa would “give international graduates a longer period to search for a tier-2 (skilled job) eligible role,” Universities UK (UUK), a representative body of the UK’s higher education institutes, said in a statement on Sept. 04. Meanwhile, smaller employers who can’t afford sponsorship licences for tier-2 visas “due to the high costs and bureaucracy involved” can get access to this pool of talented graduates from around the world.

“The ability to work in a skilled job for a limited period after graduation is, for many prospective international students, an important part of the overall package when deciding where to study,” Dame Janet Beer, president of UUK and vice-chancellor of the University of Liverpool, said in the statement.

Sam Gyima, minister of state for universities, science, research, and innovation, has since backed the UUK’s proposal.

Popular choice

Interestingly, British citizens, too, are largely in favour of the visa’s reintroduction.

Nearly three-quarters (73%) of them said it is better that international students use their skills in the country and contribute to the economy instead of returning home, a survey by British market research consultancy ComRes has found.

The online survey involved 4,302 British and Northern Irish citizens aged over 18 and was conducted between Aug. 17 and Aug. 21 this year.

Indians welcome again?

All this could imply glad tidings for Indians.

Historically, students from India have constituted the biggest international student population in Britain, after China, though their numbers have dwindled—by a massive 25% between 2013 and 2017—since the post-study visa was abolished. India still sends the fourth-largest number of students to the UK.

However, merely revamping the visa won’t fix all problems for Indians. There are other factors, too.

For instance, earlier, for courses lasting over nine months, students had to show £9,180 (Rs8.5 lakh) in maintenance funds (living expenses) if their university was located in London, or £7,380 if it were elsewhere. Since last November, they’ve had to have 24% more—£11,385 for London institutions and £9,135 for others.

Moreover, in 2017, Brexit fueled uncertainties for both graduating students and employers.

In June this year, the UK relaxed the tier-4 work visa criteria for around 25 countries. India was left out, leaving candidates from the country facing rigorous checks and, thus, pushing them to other countries.

This hostile environment for Indians was “creating huge skills gaps and hitting the economy” already, Virendra Sharma, Labour MP for Ealing, Southall, told The Economic Times newspaper in January this year. In April, up to 100 Indian doctors were denied visas, causing a talent shortage in the National Health Service. Scores of IT professionals, teachers, and engineers, too, saw their UK visa applications rejected.

Source: Quartz

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