New UK visa plan to attract Indian, non-EU students
Increasing the post-study work period and making it easier for Indian and non-EU students to find work, are among the new plans unveiled by the Theresa May government on Saturday to drive education-related growth after Brexit from £20 billion to £35 billion per year by 2030.
The plans included in the International Education Strategy, however, do not go so far as to accept the sector’s demand to revive the two-year post-study work visa that was popular with self-financing Indian students, but was closed in 2012.
The visa’s closure has since led to a major drop in the number of Indian students coming to the UK, though new figures have shown a small rise. The plans are part of the UK’s efforts to retain its position in the increasingly competitive global education market.
The current post-study work period of four months allowed to post-graduate students on one-year Masters courses is to be extended to six months, while the existing one-year period for PhD-level students to find work after course completion will remain the same.
Currently, students must find a job with a salary of at least £20,800 with an employer with a Tier-2 sponsor licence within four months of completing their course, which most Masters students find difficult to obtain; PhD students get a year to find work related to their area of study.
“The government will strengthen the UK’s visa offer for international higher education students by increasing the post-study leave period and making it easier for students to move into skilled work after graduation”, the strategy paper says.
“We will also make it easier for international higher education students to move into skilled work in the UK should they wish to do so, by allowing them to apply for a skilled work visa 3 months before their course ends, or to switch into skilled work from their home country for 2 years after graduation”, it adds.
The strategy identifies four high-value regions for growth in the post-Brexit scenario: China and Hong Kong, the ASEAN region, Latin America, and the Middle East and North Africa. India is included among ‘potential growth regions’.
“There is a long and important history of Indian students coming to study in UK universities and we intend to drive further growth through a number of the actions set out in this strategy. This is alongside growing opportunities for more university partnerships,” the paper says.
On increasing the post-study work period to six months, it adds: “This complements our efforts to identify where we can improve the visa process, tackle myths and misconceptions around the student offer and make existing and prospective students feel more welcome”.
Education secretary Damian Hinds said: “As we prepare to leave the EU it is more important than ever to reach out to our global partners and maximise the potential of our best assets – that includes our education offer and the international students this attracts”.
Vivienne Stern, director of Universities UK International, said: “We know that our Indian students are ambitious and passionate about their chosen career paths, and we welcome the focus on employability in the international education strategy”.
“We hope that the proposals in the international education strategy will help us build on this and to offer an increasing number of students from around the world the opportunity to study at our universities.”
The strategy paper was published two days after chancellor Philip Hammond announced that the annual recruitment cap of 20,700 for non-EU professionals will be revised to remove PhD-level occupations, which means there will be no limit to such individuals being recruited.
Indian experts and professionals are already granted 54 per cent of all work-related visas issued by the UK.