It’s been a tumultuous week since we received the news that the government was reintroducing a competitive post study work visa for international students. The sector has been united in campaigning for this reversal since Theresa May introduced it, working together to demonstrate the impact of the decision for UK education and the wider economy. With the introduction of a new International Education Strategy earlier this year, and Mrs May’s departure, the sector has had its collective fingers crossed for a positive outcome. So the announcement on Wednesday morning was met with widespread jubilation in the UK and overseas.
The declaration of this overwhelming positive message came at a critical point for UK education, generating positive news stories in the international media (including some UKCISA coverage on BBC World, going out across India) in time to support the next recruitment cycle.
Nonetheless, the timing of the announcement combined with some confusing messaging about the implementation of the Graduate route has led to a host of queries from students and members alike. We have been tirelessly contacting the Home Office to communicate the impact these unclear messages are having on you and your students. I understand there may be some confusing language about terms and conditions floating about on the internet, but you can always have confidence in the information on the UKCISA website and social media channels, as we corroborate this with government officials before publishing.
Understandably, many queries we have received are from students who will miss out (those graduating this year, or who will complete their course in summer 2020). Despite our sadness that so many have missed out on this opportunity over the years, this reversal is exciting news for the UK and the international students who will complete their studies from summer 2021 onwards. It will give them the opportunity to benefit from international work experience as well as a world-class education, to boost their career prospects when they return home or even head to a third country. Unfortunately, there will always be a cohort of students who misses out when a new policy is implemented, but the sector is already working together to identify ways we can support those who won’t benefit from the proposed new route and we’ll update you as soon as we know more.
Our advisers on our students’ line have taken a number of queries from students exploring whether they can defer for a year to maximise the value of their degree. UKCISA is in regular contact with officials at Home Office and DfE on this issue, so if this is something your institution is concerned about, please do let us know what queries you have had and the volume of comments by completing a short survey. Our lobbying position is much stronger if it is supported by evidence of the potential impact on institutions - financially and reputationally.
In the meantime, we’re working with the Home Office to confirm the mechanics of the route, in order to ensure a smooth implementation once parliament returns to drive through the legislation. Whatever the challenges, we have achieved the reversal we wanted for so long and will continue to work with our partners across the sector to ensure the best possible outcome for our members and international students.