A new-look student visa route seems to be having a marked effect after it was revealed that the UK has taken second place in a list of preferred destinations for international undergraduates.
It follows a move by the government to make the student visa process more streamlined following the UK’s exit from the EU – the new Graduate Immigration visa route also offers the chance to work in the UK for two years after completion of studies.
And in a survey of almost 3,000 international students, educations.com reports that the UK is currently ranked the world’s number one destination for access to higher quality teaching.
It’s welcome news given the issues that have faced UK universities during the coronavirus pandemic. Many international students – whose fees are uncapped and often twice the amount paid by their British counterparts – are reported to feel cheated at the lack of live teaching and time spent in specialist facilities, as well as missing out on cultural activities and social life.
Despite this – and the UK’s severe coronavirus infection rate before the recent vaccination program – there is still strong overseas interest in higher education from countries such as India, which is believed to be partly down to reduced applications for formerly top-ranking American institutions, likely due to a combination of Covid-19 and ex-President Donald Trump’s anti-immigration policies.
But the new-look British student visa – which lets international students stay to work in the UK for two years after their studies and easily switch to a skilled worker visa if they find a permanent job role – is believed to be a big help.
Immigration expert and director of A Y & J Solicitors, Mr Yash Dubal, says that it will continue to make the UK a big draw for foreign students, especially once worries over the pandemic ease.
He says, “There used to be a concern among international students on what happens after the completion of their degrees due to the complicated process and requirements under the previous immigration system. Quite often, international students would only have three months to complete the entire process from job-hunting to preparing for the sponsor licence application before they could submit their visa application and we understand that a lot of companies were reluctant to take on the responsibilities to be a Home Office licensed sponsor which was a difficult hurdle in itself.
“However, the government has announced a new Graduate Immigration route that would allow international students who have completed their education at degree level or above to apply for further leave to remain for another two years. This route will allow them the right to work without the need of sponsorship or meeting the minimum salary requirement under the Skilled Worker route which makes it much simpler for international students to seek employment after their study – this also means that they can take on jobs that are otherwise considered as lower skilled before they are able find a more permanent job role.
“Those who previously studied in the UK will remember that this is almost identical to the former Post-Study Work visa which was scrapped by the government in 2012. At the time, a lot of international students who were already in the UK and hoping to apply for further leave under this route were left disappointed and in a limbo as the Post-Study Work visa route was a significant deciding factor when comparing higher education in the UK with other countries such as Australia and the United States.
“The new visa route makes good sense as we need to make sure these bright, talented individuals stay and find employment here to contribute to the success of the UK economy – especially at a time when there is so much to be done to kickstart the recovery following Brexit and the pandemic. I suspect that as the things get back to normal following the easing of pandemic restrictions we’ll see a big rise in interest from students around the world.”
There is no cap on the amount of overseas students taking this route and the government hopes to increase the number to 600,000 per year – up from the current amount of around 485,000 – by 2030.
Mr Dubal adds, “Ironically, although Covid has caused huge disruption for our universities, it has also been an incredible shop front for what they have to offer. You only have to look at the world-beating research that has helped develop not just one, but several Covid-19 vaccinations, to realise that, on the world stage, the reputation of British universities is second to none.”