Post-study visa route dominated by Indians should stay, finds UK review

Post-study visa route dominated by Indians should stay, finds UK review
Post-study visa route dominated by Indians should stay, finds UK review

LONDON, May 14 : A post-study visa route dominated by Indian graduates is helping the universities in the UK make up for financial losses on the domestic front and expanding the country’s research landscape, a review commissioned by the British government concluded in its report on Tuesday.
The independent Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) had been tasked by UK Home Secretary James Cleverly to undertake a rapid review of the relatively new Graduate Route visa that allows international students to stay on for up to two years after their degree to look for work and gain work experience.
It found that Indian students lead the pack in this visa category, accounting for 89,200 visas between 2021 and 2023 or 42 per cent of the overall grants, and the visa was stated as the “overwhelming decision point” for their choice of a higher education destination.
“Our review recommends the Graduate Route should remain as it is and is not undermining the quality and integrity of the UK’s higher education system,” said MAC Chair Professor Brian Bell.
“The Graduate Route is a key part of the offer that we make to international students to come and study in the UK. The fees that these students pay help the universities to cover the losses they make in teaching British students and doing research. Without those students, many universities would need to shrink and less research would be done,” he added.
Bell’s review goes on to highlight the “complex interaction” between the immigration policy and higher education policy as it tables a series of recommendations for the government including a mandatory registration system for international recruitment agents whose “poor practices” may be mis-selling UK higher education and better data collection as well as making it a requirement for universities to confirm the course outcome for the international students they enroll.
“The Graduate Route is not undermining the integrity of and quality of the UK higher education system. Under the current funding models for higher education across the UK, the Graduate Route is helping the universities to expand the range of courses offered while making up for financial losses on domestic students and research and is supporting the government’s International Education Strategy,” the review concludes.
“It has also contributed to diversifying the range of universities, and thus domestic students, that benefit from the financial contribution international students make. However, the potential poor practice by some agents recruiting international students does risk undermining the integrity of higher education in the UK, as set out in the abuse section,” it notes.
Among the other findings of the ‘Rapid Review of the Graduate Route’ report, the majority of those on the visa route completed postgraduate taught courses, and the growth in numbers comes largely from the second-tier institutions, or UK universities outside the Russell Group, which account for 66 per cent of all Graduate Route visas.
The age profile of those on the Graduate Route involved those aged over 25 increasing by approximately 15 percentage points to 54 per cent latest. However, this is likely to be affected by the Home Office’s recent crackdown on international students being able to sponsor family dependents on their visas.
The MAC also found that Graduate Route visa holders are initially over represented in lower-paid work with their outcomes, including wages improving over time as they move on to Skilled Worker visas.
The review was commissioned to examine evidence of any abuse of the route, demographics and trends for students accessing a study visa and subsequently entering the UK labour market, what individuals do during and after their time on the Graduate Route. With immigration, both legal and illegal a priority issue ahead of a general election expected later this year, the government said it wanted to ensure those utilising this visa route contributed to the UK economy.
UK-based Indian student groups, who gave evidence to the MAC review, had feared an unfair crackdown on this post-study offer that is seen as crucial to students from India choosing the UK universities over other destinations like Australia, Canada or New Zealand. The Government usually takes the MAC’s conclusions on board when deciding on migration policy, but diaspora groups fear the UK’s post-study offer may yet face some restrictions. (Agencies)