A change in government policy means that international students will now be able to remain in the UK for two years after graduation.
The policy, which is a reversal of a 2012 decision made by then Home Secretary Theresa May, changes the amount of time that international students graduating from UK universities can stay in the country. The policy extends the amount of time allotted from the previous four months to two years.
It is aimed at encouraging international students to pursue careers in the UK, which is beneficial for both the UK economy and students looking to secure settled status in the country.
The changes, which will apply to all international students who start courses at an undergraduate level or above from next year, have been welcomed by Universities UK (UUK), whose chief executive Alistair Jarvis said:
“Evidence shows that international students bring significant positive social outcomes to the UK as well as £26bn in economic contributions, but for too long the lack of post-study work opportunities in the UK has put us at a competitive disadvantage in attracting those students.”
However, the policy has been criticised by Migration Watch UK, who told BBC News: “Our universities are attracting a record number of overseas students, so there is no need to devalue a study visa by turning it into a backdoor route for working here.”
Riddi Visu, an Overseas Students’ Representative at the National Union of Students (NUS) and past International Students’ Officer at the University of Manchester Students’ Union (UMSU), was one of the many involved in campaigning for the change.
In a post on Facebook, Visu wrote: “Since the post study work visas were scrapped in 2012, various organisations including students’ unions, the NUS, country specific student unions, Higher Education institutions…and international student campaigners have put their heart and soul into campaigning for the re-introduction of post-study work visas and finally, we relish the success of our campaign as a sector.”
However, she also used the occasion to highlight other issues that international students face in the UK, writing: “The re-introduction of the PSW visas is no doubt a step in the right direction but our fight WILL NOT and SHOULD NOT end here.
“The exorbitant NHS surcharge, the privatisation of visa services, the salary threshold, the economic restrictions on progression visas from student visas, xenophobia on campuses, the uncertainty over the future of a number of EU students, persisting deportations and cash cow treatment in institutions are still major issues we need to tackle to make the UK an attractive study destination for overseas students.”
Manchester Students’ Union comments on this week’s visa rules change affecting international students:
Reacting to today’s announcement from the Home Office that international students can stay in the UK for 2 years after graduation, the University of Manchester Students’ Union said: “We have been campaigning on this issue since Theresa May’s action as Home Secretary in 2012 forced international students to leave the UK just four months after finishing their degrees.
“While we broadly welcome this move from the Home Office, we believe many of our international students will still be confused by contradictory policy around Brexit, unfair charges in relation to health care and of course the ever-increasing cost of fees.
“We have always maintained that creating a hostile environment for international students stood against the values of UK Higher Education. International students add a very important dimension to universities, ensuring students leave with an international network of friends and develop cultural competence in addition to their studies.
“Though this move is a positive one, by no means does it address the much greater issue of the hostile, xenophobic attitudes that exist inside our universities and in wider society – an area that we continue to campaign on and work hard to address.”