In a departure from the policy under Theresa May, international graduate students are to be offered two-year work visas following the completion of their studies at British universities. Whereas currently, such graduates are afforded only a four-month grace period following graduation in which to secure a job, it is hoped that the new policy, a return to the pre-2012 position, will increase graduates’ chances of finding long-term employment in the UK.
The original decrease from two years (described by then Home Secretary Theresa May as “too generous”) to four months has been accused of causing the drop-off in international student enrolments. The shift in policy, which will be see an uncapped number of visas available, is part of the government’s aim to recruit graduates in maths, engineering and technology in particular.
Speaking on the policy announcement, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson, said that it ensures “our prestigious higher education sector will continue to attract the best talent from around the world”, while also recognising the “important contribution international students make to our country and universities”.
Although the move was welcomed by Universities UK as restoring the UK to its position as “a first-choice study destination”, it has been criticised by Diane Abbott for being incongruent with the current £30k minimum threshold salary for work visas. In particular, Abbott highlighted graduates who would be performing “fantastic medical and other research earn less than that”, graduates who would most likely fall under the list of those being targeted in the first place.
Under the new policy, the visas would have no cap on numbers and would allow graduates to apply for jobs regardless of their skills or the subject they studied. The government said part of the aim was to recruit talented graduates in disciplines such as maths, engineering and technology.