post-study work visa extension
PhD Research Associate Francesca Nice prepares blood samples from coronavirus patients for analysis. The UK is introducing research-friendly measures to attract international PhD graduates. Source: Kirsty Wigglesworth/POOL/AFP

The UK has announced a post-study work visa extension for PhD graduates. They can now work for up to three years — one year longer than those with bachelor’s and mater’s degrees.

PhD students graduating from 2021 onwards will be able to access this visa.

The UK government reintroduced the two-year post-study work visa in 2019. It was previously revoked in 2012. Following Brexit, however, the UK is seen to soften certain immigration measures to attract international students to its shores.

Post-study work visa extension for global talent

post-study work visa extension

The UK needs 25,000 PhD graduates by 2027 to achieve its research and development goals. Source: Maura Barbulescu/Pixabay

The UK aims to increase research investment to £22 billion a year by 2024/25. This is where its newly-minted Research and Development Roadmap comes in; attracting global talent will directly support it.

According to the Higher Education Policy Institute, the UK government must recruit 25,000 PhD students to achieve its ambition of increasing R&D expenditure to 2.4 percent of GDP by 2027.

Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Alok Sharma said the R&D Roadmap sets out the UK’s plan to “attract global talent, cut unnecessary red tape and ensure our best minds get the support they need to solve the biggest challenges of our time”.

Vivienne Stern, director of Universities UK International told The PIE News, “News that the Graduate Route, announced in September last year, is to be extended to allow PhD students to stay for three years rather than two is a fantastic development.”

She elaborated the UK is a great place to do a PhD, and that the UK would be “fortunate to retain more PhD graduates to contribute to our research system and our economy after they complete their studies.”

“Office for talent” among new research-friendly initiatives

post-study work visa extension

Scientists work in the laboratory of British pharmatech company Exscientia at Oxford Science Park in Oxford as part of the company’s joint initiative to test existing clinical molecules to find a treatment for COVID-19. Source: Adrian Dennis/AFP

The UK government will also be launching an office for talent within Downing Street. It aims to make it “easier for leading global scientists, researchers and innovators to come to the UK”.

Post-Brexit, students and staff from EU countries must seek entry under the same points-based rules as other nationals.

The post-study work visa extension and this new office are part of a series of measures introduced to restore immigration for academic talent under the R&D Roadmap.

Additionally, the government is pumping in 300 million pounds to improve science labs across the country.

Fringe initiatives include extending the visa application time period for students and researchers, as well as removing study time limits at postgraduate level. Visa holders will also be able to switch their visa type while in the UK.

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