UK Grad Visa Scheme Isn’t Troublesome, Finds Report Amid Immigration Concerns

UK Grad Visa Scheme Isn't Troublesome, Finds Report Amid Immigration Concerns
UK Grad Visa Scheme Isn’t Troublesome, Finds Report Amid Immigration Concerns

Following concerns about potential misuse for immigration purposes, a new report recommends maintaining the graduate visa route, highlighting its importance for British universities.

The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) investigated the scheme after Home Secretary James Cleverly requested an expedited review in March. The committee examined if the visa was being exploited and if it primarily attracted students seeking immigration rather than education.

A graduate visa allows international students to remain in the UK for up to three years after completing a university program. Dependents like partners and children can also apply.

Last week, former immigration minister Robert Jenrick called for the graduate visa’s abolition, arguing it facilitated “entry for individuals to work in the gig economy and for very low wages.”

Universities and industry leaders expressed anxieties that the 2021-introduced route might be scrapped or restricted based on a negative report. This fear, in turn, led to a significant decline in applications from international students.

However, the committee, comprising five university professors and a Home Office representative, discovered “no widespread evidence of abuse” of the graduate visa program.

“The limited conditions associated with the route lead to comparatively low abuse risks,” the report stated.

The review also revealed that the visa scheme is aiding universities in expanding course offerings while compensating for financial shortfalls from domestic students and research endeavors. Additionally, it “supports the government’s international education strategy.”

The report indicated that in 2023, 114,000 graduate route visas were issued to applicants, with an additional 30,000 for dependents. It further noted that students from India, Nigeria, China, and Pakistan constituted 70% of all graduate visa holders, with India exceeding 40%.

Professor Brian Bell, the MAC chair and a prominent labor economist leading economics at King’s College London, commented, “Our review recommends maintaining the graduate route in its current form. It does not undermine the integrity and quality of the UK’s higher education system.”

“The graduate route is a crucial aspect of our offer to international students considering studying in the UK,” Professor Bell continued. “The fees they pay contribute to universities recouping losses incurred from teaching British students and conducting research. Without these students, many universities would be forced to shrink, leading to a decline in research output. This underscores the intricate relationship between immigration and higher education policies.”

The report discovered that a majority of graduate visa holders had completed postgraduate programs, with the most significant growth stemming from postgraduate courses offered by non-Russell Group universities, accounting for 66% of all graduate visas.

Since 2021, the proportion of primary applicants exceeding 25 years old has grown by 15 percentage points, reaching 54% in 2023.

The report also revealed that while graduate visa holders initially tend to occupy lower-paying positions, their job prospects and salaries improve over time. Notably, nearly half of the initial cohort transitioned to skilled worker visas, primarily securing skilled roles.

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