• that there continues to be no cap placed on the number of Tier 4 visas issued to non-EEA international students
• that international students continue to be included in the International Passenger Survey (IPS) immigration statistics
• that no separate post-study work visa should be introduced for international students (subject to further evaluation by the MAC or another body of what students do in the post-study period and when they move into other immigration work categories)—this will be a blow for Universities UK following the launch earlier this month of its proposal for a two-year post-study work visa for international graduates
• that there is no regional approach taken to matters relating to international students—this is on the basis that the complications introduced by this are not justified by the size of regional variations, for example in relation to entry level full-time professional employment salaries
• that no changes should be made to the work rights of international students as these are broadly similar to competitor countries—although UK rules are stricter for those studying at further education colleges
• the government should ensure switching to Tier 2 is possible once a job offer has been made, even if this is many months before the proposed start date
• graduates of higher education institutions should be able to access the relaxed criteria currently applicable for Tier 4 to Tier 2 switching (exclusion from the Tier 2 cap as well as exemptions from resident labour market testing and the Immigration Skills Charge) for two years after course completion irrespective of whether the student leaves the UK during that period—this change should be evaluated post-implementation to check the quality of the employment such students move into
Prioritising the growth of international student numbers
The MAC encouraged the government and education sector to work together to grow international student numbers, and to present these students with a positive and welcoming image of the UK.
Responding to calls to remove international students from the IPS statistics that the government currently uses in its aim to reduce net migration, the MAC observed that doing so may compromise the quality of the statistics that are used for population estimates. It acknowledged that many in the education sector had argued in the call for evidence that one of the biggest problems with negative messaging is the inclusion of international students within the government’s net migration target and suggested that this could be addressed by the government deciding to use other data sources to set net migration targets, or to drop such targets altogether.
Harnessing international student talent
The LCCI agree with the MAC’s recommendation to ensure easier access for students to secure work in the UK after finishing their studies. It notes that during a ‘time when three quarters of firms are struggling to fill job vacancies, it makes sense to harness the talent of international students’.
Magrath also agrees that and inflow of overseas students to the UK is necessary in bringing significant benefits to the country. He notes that with the ‘minor tweaks’ suggested by the MAC to UK immigration rules, the UK could see a greater number of students encouraged to come to the UK.
UK should look to attract the ‘brightest talent from around the world’
With Brexit fast approaching the LCCI believes that: ‘Now more than ever, the UK should be striving to attract the brightest talent from around the world, and our [the UK’s] future immigration policy should reflect that instead of a fixation with targets.’
It believes the government should ‘restore a post-study work visa that allows British universities and companies to benefit from the energy of some of the people they have trained’.