In September, Julie Allen (Director of Policy and Services) and I attended the AGCAS (Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services) Annual Conference 2017 at The University of Nottingham. We ran an interactive one-hour workshop on Post study work for international students without ‘Post-Study Work’ for delegates who are careers and employability professionals working in higher education. We presented a whistle-stop tour of current immigration options for international graduates which you can explore further here.
What did we learn from our session at the AGCAS conference?
- Careers and employability professionals in higher education are piloting and implementing hugely creative and innovative employability projects in institutions across the UK. We received well-informed and complex questions surrounding Tier 4-related issues and working conditions from AGCAS colleagues, and there is widespread concern about whether such opportunities could be open to students bound by their Tier 4 conditions.
- It was clear that the importance of compliance with Home Office regulations has permeated institutions with 95% of delegates understanding that if Tier 4 students break the rules on working during their studies, there is a risk to the institution’s licence, which if lost, loses their right to recruit international students at all.
- The simplest option for some students was the one least known about. While careers and employability experts in our session demonstrated expert knowledge of the requirements of Tier 2 (General), not everyone was aware of the Doctorate Extension Scheme (DES) as an option for students about to complete a doctorate-level qualification. We emphasised the importance of eligible students receiving information about this option before they complete their studies as they can only apply from inside the UK, prior to the ‘expected end date’ of their studies, while holding leave as a Tier 4 student.
- Those advising and working with international students, in whatever capacity, face the same challenges. Those in our session were all very aware of the challenges posed by immigration legislation and the aftermath following the closure of the ‘Post-Study Work’ (PSW) immigration route in 2012, and it wasn’t surprising that 70% said they didn’t find it easy to advise Tier 4 students on work options after study.
So how can institutions continue to positively promote work options after graduation?
1. The higher education employability agenda - get Tier 4 students involved!
Employability remains very much a key priority for higher education institutions in the UK. Can international students restricted by their Tier 4 conditions on work benefit from the employability projects that are being implemented within your institution? Most probably, yes! But if you advise students on careers and employability, seek out those who provide immigration advice. If you specialise in providing immigration advice, make and sustain contact with your peers in careers, employability and enterprise teams and disseminate your specialist knowledge of Tier 4 conditions. Discuss together any potential projects in the pipeline at the earliest opportunity, highlight challenges presented by Tier 4 and work together to promote helpful and clear messaging so these exciting opportunities can be safely applicable and accessible for all.
2. “Work options after graduation? But what options?!” Bust those myths!
Although Tier 2 (General) seems to remain the main focus and challenge for many of those advising Tier 4 students on working after their studies, it’s also important to continue to disseminate advice and published materials on the variety of other work option available as widely as possible within your institution. At the AGCAS conference, delegates in our session were fully aware that immigration advice is only to be provided by certain competent staff within institutions (see more information on the OISC in the UKCISA Manual), but spreading knowledge of where to signpost students without having to embark on the provision of immigration advice may prevent our Tier 4 students from feeling dispirited if they stumble at the first Tier 2 hurdle.
3. Students can learn from their peers!
It’s never too early to try and advise international students on their options, but students are often focused on spending all their time studying rather than trawling for job vacancies. Dominic and I recently had the pleasure of meeting Tripti and Dhruv, international graduates from India, Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneurs and co-founders of Student Circus. As former Tier 4 students, they know all too well the struggles of finding an eligible job with an eligible Tier 2 sponsor. As a response to this they developed Student Circus, a job search platform specifically tailored to international students and their institutions. Vacancies listed for students are offered solely by Tier 2 sponsors, and Tripti and Dhruv have already enlisted partnership with some institutions. It might be worth a look.
None of this will be completely new to you, but I’m encouraged by meeting new colleagues at AGCAS and hearing of exciting ventures from past international students in this post ‘PSW’ period.
For those of you interested in knowing more about the practicalities of post study immigration and careers options, you can find details of our course on ‘Work options after study’ here.
Heather Knight is an Advice and Training Officer at UKCISA.