British Home Secretary Says Int’l Students May Be Using University Courses to Get Work Visas

United Kingdom Europe Higher Education News by Erudera News Mar 15, 2024

British Home Secretary James Cleverly

The British home secretary, James Cleverly, has recently raised concerns that international students are using university courses for the purpose of getting work visas, and ordered a review of the Graduate Route.

In a recent letter sent to the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC), the body which gives independent advice to the government, Cleverly said analysis is needed to understand whether international students are undermining the integrity and quality of higher education in the United Kingdom, Erudera.com reports.

He ordered the committee to investigate cases of abuse on the Graduate Route, which allows international students earning diplomas from UK schools to stay and work in the country or look for job opportunities for two years or three for PhD students after graduation.

“We are proud that students from around the world want to study in the UK and recognise the value that international students contribute to the UK economy, domestic teaching and to Research and Development,” Cleverly said.

“But we also recognise that UK universities’ reputation for quality could easily be put at risk if evidence emerges of immigration abuse or visa exploitation which are not tackled.”

The letter sent on March 11, notes that although the government made efforts to attract talented international students worldwide, it also wanted to ensure that the Graduate Route is not misused.

The annual report from MAC revealed that the number of international students studying at less costly institutions increased to 32 percent during the 2021/22 academic year. At the same time, the number of international students in postgraduate programs increased by more than 250 percent between 2018 and 2022.

Cleverly stressed that international students can spend minimally on fees for a one-year course and have access to two additional years without any employment obligations through the Graduate Route.

Later, students on the skilled worker route can also have access to a discounted salary threshold for four years, the letter adds.

“This means international graduates are able to access the UK labour market with salaries significantly below the requirement imposed on the majority of migrant skilled workers,” Cleverly said.

Under its International Education Strategy, the United Kingdom achieved its target of hosting 600,000 international students in 2020/21, ten years earlier than planned. That year, there were 605,130 international students in the UK, an increase of nearly 50,000 students compared with the previous year.

Since the Graduate route was introduced, 175,872 visas have been issued.

Image Source: Twitter Account of UK Home Secretary James Cleverly

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