UK: Let international students stay on and work, MP group urges
International students at the University of St Andrew's 2018 summer graduation day. Source: Facebook/@uniofsta

The UK should let international students studying at university stay on and work post-graduation, the All Party Parliamentary Group for International Students (APPGIS) has said.

This is the main recommendation made by the APPGIS to the UK government in its recently published blueprint for boosting international recruitment across the UK.

It is part of a comprehensive, sector-wide 12-step plan to make the UK attractive among foreign applicants, seeking to reverse the damage eight years of restrictive immigration policies have caused.

“We need to press the reset button, establish an ambitious strategy to increase recruitment, put new policies in place, and send out a clear message that international students are welcome in the UK,” said Paul Blomfield MP, co-chair of APPGIS.

“Our report offers a way forward for the Government, and a route-map to renewed competitiveness for our world-class universities and colleges. I urge Ministers to look carefully at our recommendations and step up to the challenge.”

The report also joins the chorus calling for the removal of international students from the government’s reduced immigration target, something former Home Secretary Amber Rudd and other then members of the British Cabinet supported.

“For too long, the drive to reduce net migration has trumped the growth of our world-class education system,” the report reads.

“Our campuses, local economies and global standing are suffering as a result,” the report continues, calling for this “self-defeating” course to be reversed.

Analysing the most recent UNESCO Institute of Statistics data on incoming international students, the Centre for Global Higher Education found the UK to be at great risk of losing its position as second most popular global destination for international students, if it’s not already lost.

The APPGIS report says the UK only saw a 0.7 percent growth of international students over the three years between 2012 and 2015. This is in stark contrast to the 22.5 percent growth in the US, the 26.9 percent in Canada and 18 percent in Australia.

Commenting on the report, President of the UK Council for International Student Affairs and International Students APPGIS co-chair, Lord Karan Bilimoria said:

“British universities used to lead the world in attracting international students. But now all our major competitors are growing at a rate far greater than us, and in areas where we have seen the greatest decline. Even Canada attracts more students from India than the UK does. I strongly commend the recommendations included in this report as a way to put this right.”

The lack of a post-study work visa scheme, on top of being unnecessarily counted towards the net migration numbers, represent only a fraction of the reasons why the UK is becoming increasingly unattractive to international students.

Under the approach spearheaded in 2012 by UK Prime Minister Theresa May, who was then Home Secretary, Britain was to adopt a course to make itself a “hostile environment” for people who have “no right to be here”.

This includes measures to make it difficult for those without the right immigration papers to live a normal life in the UK, be it to access healthcare, rent a flat, open bank accounts, send their children to school, etc.

APPGIS’s recommendations appear to mitigate some, if not all, of these factors. Other recommendations put forth include an EU deal for unrestricted movement of students and researchers, friendlier immigration policies and more work experience schemes and industry engagement from universities.

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