• Thursday, June 13, 2024

HEADLINE STORY

Universities, Indian students urge Sunak to keep the post-study visa

Representational image: iStock

By: Vivek Mishra

Universities and Indian students group have urged prime minister Rishi Sunak to retain the country’s post-study visa offer.

This visa, primarily utilised by Indian graduates, allows them to gain work experience for about two years after their degree.

Reports indicate that Sunak may restrict or end the Graduate Route to reduce migration statistics before a general election.

Nearly 30 university vice-chancellors and the National Indian Students and Alumni Association (NISAU) UK sent letters to 10 Downing Street on Tuesday. They highlighted the benefits of keeping the Graduate Route visa scheme, emphasising its economic advantages and the role of international students in enhancing the UK’s global educational competitiveness.

“Modelling by consultancy London Economics shows that a single cohort has a net economic benefit of GBP 37 billion to the UK economy, as well as through the soft power that Britain’s international graduates generate for the country over time, including through furthering ties of trade and diplomacy,” reads the NISAU UK letter to Sunak.

“Indeed, 70 per cent of Indian students have told us that the ability to gain meaningful work experience is a critical element in their decision to choose between competing international destinations, of which the UK is one. The Graduate Route allows the opportunity to gain this work experience for a temporary period. It is non-extendable and does not count towards permanent settlement. This means that neither students nor Graduate visa holders should be considered ‘immigrants’ in the context of the long-term picture of migration,” it notes.

This appeal follows the Migration Advisory Committee’s (MAC) recommendation to continue the scheme, finding no abuse of the post-study work offer. The committee noted that Indians accounted for 42 per cent of the visas from 2021 to 2023 and would be most affected by any restrictions.

Universities from northern England, including Sunderland, Sheffield, Leeds, Lancaster, Liverpool, Teesside, Bradford, Huddersfield, York, and Newcastle, warned that removing or reducing this visa would harm their institutions. They stated it is an “intrinsic part of the educational offer that has made the UK so attractive to brilliant students from all around the world.”

“The Graduate Visa Route is regarded by students in key markets like India as an integral part of their educational experience. The MAC review made clear that the removal of this route would make the UK less attractive and thus would cause considerable financial detriment to universities around the country,” reads their joint letter.

They also noted that international student tuition fees have long subsidised underfunded research and the teaching of UK undergraduate students due to frozen tuition fees. Without alternative funding, universities cannot continue to absorb these costs.

International students contribute significantly to the UK economy through income tax, national insurance, and VAT. University chiefs added that they usually contribute to the NHS through the NHS surcharge.

The Russell Group of the UK’s leading universities appealed over the weekend. CEO Tim Bradshaw highlighted a 10 per cent decline in international applications for postgraduate courses starting in September following restrictions on students bringing dependent family members.

“A further restriction on international students would not only be unnecessary – as numbers are already falling – but also damaging, resulting in less spending in local communities, fewer opportunities for domestic students and less UK research,” he noted in a letter to Sunak.

Members of Sunak’s Cabinet reportedly oppose changes to the Graduate scheme. However, Sunak faces pressure from the right-wing Conservatives demanding curbs on all forms of migration before the election later this year.

(PTI)

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