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Study Group welcomes proposals to boost UK international student recruitment with four-year post-study work visa

15 June 2020

Study Group welcomes proposals for a four-year post-study work visa in the UK and a wider range of measures to attract and welcome international students.

The proposals were made in a paper by the former Universities Minister Jo Johnson, Senior Fellow with Barnaby Lynch and Todd Gillespie of the Harvard Kennedy School in a paper entitled ‘Universities open to the world - how to put the bounce back in Global Britain’.

Summary of the paper’s recommendations

  • Set a clear ambition to retain global leadership in international education.
  • Recommit to existing 2030 exports targets and create an additional goal for the UK to be the number one study destination worldwide after the US.
  • Send a clear signal that Global Britain is open and welcome, with a best-in-class student visa offer.
  • The Government should turbocharge the competitiveness of the UK visa offer, with the doubling of post-study work visas (Graduate Immigration Route) from 2 to 4 years.
  • Double student numbers from India by 2024.
  • The UK should capitalise on the post-study work visa change and seek to rebalance the mix of international students coming to the UK. It should launch a new marketing drive in India and include India, alongside China, in the low-risk country category.
  • Re-focus the British Council on education promotion.
  • The British Council should be re-focused on its education promotion activity. It should establish and operate a world-class global student mobility network to replace UK participation in Erasmus; create and manage a worldwide StudyUK alumni network; and negotiate reciprocal recognition agreements with governments which don’t currently recognise degrees with significant elements of online learning.
  • End the hostile bureaucracy.
  • The Home Office needs to step back, increase flexibility on English proficiency testing and Tier 4 visa issuance and hold universities to account for any non-compliance.
  • Prepare continuity arrangements in light of COVID-19.
  • HMG should mitigate the effect of international travel restrictions for international students.
  • Put liberalisation of trade in education at the heart of FTAs.
  • Make education exports central to the UK’s post-Brexit trade strategy, so that the UK Government prioritises liberalisation of trade and cooperation in research and education in each of its prospective FTAs.
  • Increase transparency in progress towards the targets.
  • Require the International Education Champion to report progress.

According to James Pitman, Managing Director for the UK and Europe at Study Group and a long-standing advocate for more progressive visa policies for international students travelling to the UK:

“Our universities are essential to a strong recovery from COVID-19 but their ability to perform this role is financially underpinned by international students, including from China. This is why the sector welcomes these calls for a four-year post-study work visa along with other supportive measures.

“However the Government should go further. Put this country at a true competitive advantage by introducing a single long-term, flexible, study visa to cover the whole student journey from school or pathway to undergraduate, postgraduate and post-study work. It is simple, understandable and would benefit students, universities and the Treasury in one fell swoop.”

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