After the change in UK’s leadership last year, Rishi Sunak directed the Education Department and the Home Office to bring about proposals that could reduce the number of international students entering the country. This, reports suggest, has led the Home Office and the Department of Education (DfE) to be on a collision course.
Recent headlines have highlighted leaks from within the UK Government that reveal a proposal to cut down the stay-back period in the UK for international students after completing their studies.
Since the launch of the Graduate Visa route, the number of foreign students choosing the UK for higher education spiked high. Rightfully so, since the Route opened up doors for foreign nationals to stay in the country after their studies for two years, without having to present any job offers.
As per reports, British Home Secretary, Suella Braverman, is expected to cut down the provision of allowing foreign nationals to stay back in the country. The new proposal by the Indian-origin Home Secretary is expected to ‘reform’ the Graduate Route by requiring foreign nationals to apply for a work visa after receiving a skilled job or leave the country within six months of graduation.
The UK report further added that the UK’s DfE has been working towards deflecting the proposal since they fear that the UK’s attractiveness may take a hit among prospective international students.
The supporters of Braverman’s proposal, the report highlighted, have stated that foreign students often use the Graduate Route after being enrolled on short-term courses at “less respectable universities”. Quoting the source, the “Graduate Route was being used as a backdoor immigration route”.
One of the counter-arguments of the DfE is that the UK’s 2-year Graduate Route is aligned with the post-study offers made by other major competitive countries, with only the US offering a 1-year post-study offering.
Data by the Office for National Statistics revealed that since the announcement of the Graduate Route, Indians became the largest international student cohort, overtaking the Chinese last year. Moreover, the data highlighted that 41% of the visas granted through the new Graduate Visa route consisted of Indians.
However, Braverman’s proposal is one among many drawn up after Rishi Sunak directed the Home Office and the DfE to submit proposals leading to the reduction of the foreign student numbers in the UK.
As per reports, the UK’s 2019 Higher Education Strategy was to attract 600,000 students by 2030, a target which was surpassed last year with a total of 680,000 foreign students being accounted for in the UK.
Among the other proposals, one is reportedly expected to allow foreign students to bring dependent family members with them if they were enrolled in postgraduate research-based courses (PhD) or at least in 2-year-long postgraduate courses.
While no official comment has been made by the UK Home Office, a government spokesperson responded by highlighting the country’s point-based system which prioritises the UK’s needs such as attracting top-class talent from across the world “to contribute to the country’s excellent academic reputation and to keep our universities competitive on the world stage”.
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