The UK has long been a popular study abroad destination for international students, especially among those from Asian countries. Universities UK International (UUKi) Director Vivienne Stern described UK higher education as “a global success story” in a recent report, International Facts and Figures 2019, but has she considered the controversy surrounding post-study work for international students?
Despite its world-leading education, a recent review has found that the UK’s post-study work offer, part of the new post-Brexit immigration system, compares poorly with international competitors.
With globalisation in full-force and countries looking to address skill shortages and grow their international footprint, this can only hamper the UK’s ability to attract and retain global talent and remain competitive.
The Scottish Government, who commissioned the review, found that countries are increasingly developing competitive migration policies aimed at attracting and retaining international students.
The University of Glasgow’s Dr Paulina Trevena carried out the review. She looked at nine countries, namely Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the US, France, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands and Sweden.
Among the key findings was the fact that the UK Government should introduce a more competitive post-study work offer, which includes supporting international students by ease of application and application timescales, programme length, work entitlement and opportunities for applying to the programme after leaving the UK.
However, an alluring post-study work offer is insufficient to ensure long-term retention of international students.
The review noted that the UK Government should implement additional measures to support the longer term retention of international students, including language and employability support, integration programmes; provision of information and advice on conditions of stay and employment opportunities.
Issues resulting from a poor post-study work offer
“Opportunities for gaining work experience are important for international students. Meanwhile, the UK’s current and proposed post-study work offer is far less attractive than in its competitor countries,” Dr Trevena was quoted saying in the Scottish governments’ media release.
“Brexit and the negative atmosphere around immigration also discourages international students from coming to the UK, especially those from EU countries.
“If the UK Government aims to keep a competitive edge in attracting and retaining global talent, it should consider revising migration policies towards international students and strengthen practical support for those wishing to stay.”
Meanwhile, Migration Minister Ben Macpherson said: “Like many other developed countries, Scotland faces challenges relating to an ageing population and labour shortages, and the need to attract highly skilled labour in the knowledge economy. Brexit and the UK government are making this worse, as the UK looks increasingly insular and less attractive.
“The Scottish Government has long argued for the return of the post-study work visa, to allow students studying for all degrees at bachelor level and above to be able to remain in the UK for two years after graduating.
“UK government immigration policies are not delivering adequately for Scotland. We increasingly need tailored immigration policies that better meet Scotland’s needs. The evidence and our experience to date shows that we hugely benefit from migration, and new Scots settling here, supporting our economy and enriching our communities.
“We will continue to press for the reintroduction of a post-study work route in Scotland, so that people who study here can then build their lives and careers here.”