London: In a move which addresses a long-standing demand to boost Indian student numbers choosing British universities, the UK government announced Wednesday a new plan. It said that all international students will get a new two-year post-study work visa route after completion of their courses.
The new ‘Graduate’ route, to be in place by next year, will be open to all overseas nationals who have valid UK immigration status as a student and have successfully completed a course of study in any subject at undergraduate level or above at a government-approved UK higher education institution.
The visa will allow eligible students to work, or crucially look for work, in any career or position of their choice, for two years after completing their studies.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who has effectively re-instated a policy ended by his predecessor Theresa May around nine years ago, said the change would see students ‘unlock their potential’ to begin careers in the UK.
“The new ‘Graduate Route’ will mean talented international students, whether in science and maths or technology and engineering, can study in the UK and then gain valuable work experience as they go on to build successful careers,” said UK home secretary Priti Patel, the senior-most Indian-origin member of the Boris Johnson Cabinet.
“It demonstrates our global outlook and will ensure that we continue to attract the best and brightest,” added Patel.
The UK ended its two-year post-study work visa offer during May’s term as UK home secretary in 2012, widely seen as responsible for a major drop in student numbers from countries like India.
The UK government’s latest announcement was widely welcomed by university chiefs and representatives, who highlight that Indian students were particularly prone to make their higher education choices based on being able to gain some work experience at the end of their degree.
“Although 82 per cent of our Indian graduates are satisfied with their careers wherever they are working, we know that they value the opportunity to spend some time in the UK working after their degree. This visa will make it significantly easier for them to do that,” said Vivienne Stern, Director, Universities UK International, which has been lobbying for such a visa for many years.
Indian students coming to the UK registered a hike over the last three years, hitting around 22,000 in the year ending June 2018. This was a 42 per cent increase on the previous year, a reversal from a downward trend in the past.
The latest announcement follows the creation of a new fast-track visa route for scientists and the removal of the limit on PhD students moving into the skilled work visa route, which collectively aim to cement the UK as a science superpower and a world-leader in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) sector.
According to official UK figures, almost half of all Indian students – 1,30,000 since 2008-09 – heading to the UK in the last 10 years chose a STEM subject.