Policy changes to affect UK economy
A report on the UK Post-Study Work Opportunities for International Students has found that the government greatly underestimated the impact its 2012 policy changes would have on the number of students securing visas with the actual reduction likely to affect the economy heavily.
The inquiry, by All-Party Parliamentary Group on Migration, found out that the real reduction in numbers of students securing visas stands at 88 per cent not 49 percent as government earlier estimated. Foreign students contribute more than £10 billion a year to UK economy and this is now at risk.
The inquiry’s findings, released on February 24, 2015, examined the impact of the closure of the former Tier 1 Post-Study Work visa on universities, foreign students, and local economies. It also evaluated the alternative routes put in place by the government since 2012.
Paul Blomfield, who is chairperson of All-Party Parliamentary Group on Migration, was optimistic that government would consider the proposals in the report.
“The previous Tier 1 PSW route in the UK allowed students significant flexibility to acquire work experience and employment. The reformed routes, by contrast, have generated concern among universities, employers, and students as too restrictive,” Blomfield said.
Some international students believed working in the United Kingdom would benefit them to apply the knowledge gained during their studies.
“I would definitely go back to Africa but it is logical that I am given the chance to work with the organisations based in the United Kingdom to gain more experience and sharpen my skills that I will use when I go back home,” said Sylvester Ernest from Tanzania who is an MA student in Media and Development at University of Westminster in London.
He told Migrant Voice that said practical experience would strengthen the knowledge gained while studying in the UK.
“There is no better place to practice than the United Kingdom. Most of the knowledge we have acquired is suited to this environment, we will miss the opportunity to practice here because of the policy changes,” he said.
Business leaders in the UK have joined the chorus of those calling for government to rethink the policy changes. In an open letter to Financial Times prior to the release of the report, John Fallon (CEO of Pearson) and Simon Collins, UK Chairman and Senior Partner of KPMG, said that there should be more opportunities for qualified international graduates to remain in the UK.
The letter also highlighted that many of the world’s brightest minds studied at the universities in the UK and “we do not do not want to lose these talented people to our competitor economies as a result of ill-thought-out immigration policies”.
According to The Telegraph, ICM poll, which has been cited in the letter, said 75 per cent of people think that international students should be allowed to stay and work in the UK after graduating from the universities.
The Telegraph quoted Nicola Dandridge, Chief Executive of Universities UK, who said: “We agree that, if the UK is to remain internationally competitive, it should be looking to broaden, not limit, efforts to attract qualified international students and graduates.”
Although UK remained the second most popular student destination in the world in 2014, it will not be able to benefit from the market that will likely double between 2010 and 2025 due to the impact of migration policies.
Declines in number of students studying in the UK have been noticeable in particular from countries like India, Nigeria, Pakistan and Japan.
The enquiry also found out that students were applying to countries with a better post-study work offer like Australia.
In the UK, small businesses are finding it difficult to recruit from the pool of international students because of sponsor license coupled with the basic salary requirement of £20,500, the report found out.
While universities have seen sharp declines in students from key markets, some students already in the UK said they would have gone elsewhere had they known the difficulties in finding employment in the UK.
In January, Theresa May, the Home Secretary, warned that foreign student numbers could hit 600,000 by 2020s but her plans to expel international students after graduation, were reportedly quashed by George Osborne following criticism by business leaders.