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Japa: UK advised to retain two years post-study visa for foreign students - PUNCH

MAY 15, 2024

By Tosin Oyediran

The Migration Advisory Committee has proposed that the United Kingdom’s Graduate route visa’s two-year- validity should be maintained.

It, however, proposed an extension for PhD holders – recommending three years.

The committee insisted that it found no significant abuse of the Graduate route but raised concerns about recruitment agents misleading international students.

A Graduate visa permits applicants to stay in the UK for at least two years after successfully completing a course.

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Also, one must be in the UK during the application, PUNCH Online reports.

This decision comes amidst heightened anticipation and speculation regarding the future of post-study opportunities for international students.

The committee’s decision is contained in a report titled “Rapid Review of the Graduate Route” from Asset Manager dated May 2024, a copy of which was obtained by our correspondent on Tuesday

PUNCH Online reports that Asset Manager is an API that is called internally by GOV.UK publishing applications to manage their uploads.

In the report’s foreword, written by Prof. Brian Bell (Chair); Prof. Dina Kiwan; Prof. Sergi Pardos-Prado; Dr Madeleine Sumption MBE; and Prof. Jo Swaffiel, MAC noted that “After reviewing the evidence, our conclusion is clear. The Graduate route has broadly achieved and continues to achieve, the objectives set by this government. We therefore recommend that the route remains in place in its current form.”

They also recommended mandatory requirements for universities to ensure transparency and protect the integrity of the UK Higher Education system.

“The Migration Advisory Committee concluded that there is no substantial evidence of significant abuse of the Graduate route, defined as deliberate non-compliance with immigration regulations.

“However, they express concerns regarding the involvement of recruitment agents, particularly in certain markets, who may provide misleading information to prospective international students.

“Despite the introduction of a voluntary framework by the sector to address these concerns, the MAC questions its effectiveness, citing the lack of incentives for agents to adhere to best practices compared to universities.

“They recommend that the government consider implementing mandatory requirements to ensure good practice and advocate for universities to publish information on their use of agents to enhance transparency.

“These measures are proposed to safeguard the integrity of the UK Higher Education system,” it further read.

International education goals

Our correspondent’s summary from the 70-page report revealed that MAC recommends maintaining the Graduate route as it has effectively supported international education goals.

They caution against significant changes due to potential negative impacts on the higher education sector’s financial stability.

Additionally, they propose mandatory registration and quality controls for international recruitment agents to safeguard students and ensure accurate representation of UK higher education.

“The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) recommends maintaining the Graduate route in its current form. Despite concerns over misuse and government objectives regarding net migration, the route has been effective in supporting international education strategies.

“Closure or further restrictions on the Graduate route could jeopardize the financial stability of many universities. The MAC advises against significant changes until the full impact of recent policy shifts is understood and the higher education funding model is addressed.

“Collaboration between the government and higher education sector is encouraged to align the Graduate route with labour market objectives. International graduates could be better integrated into priority sectors, benefiting both universities and the economy.

“To ensure accurate representation and protect international students from exploitation, the MAC recommends mandatory registration and quality controls for international recruitment agents. A new data-sharing framework involving universities, the British Council, and UK Visas and Immigration should be established to monitor agent practices effectively.” the recommendations read.

2023 graduate visas

With the release of staggering statistics from 2023, it has been revealed that a whopping 114,000 Graduate visas were granted to main applicants alone, accompanied by an additional 30,000 visas for dependents.

This substantial influx underscores the vital role international graduates play in contributing to the UK’s workforce and enriching its diverse cultural landscape.

Highlighting the global appeal of British education, a remarkable 70 per cent of these visas were awarded to students from four key countries: India, Nigeria, China, and Pakistan.

This data not only underscores the UK’s allure as a top destination for higher education but also emphasizes the pivotal contributions made by students from these nations to the country’s academic and economic spheres.

As discussions surrounding immigration policy continue to evolve, this recommendation by MAC stands as a pivotal moment in shaping the future of international education and talent retention in the UK.


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