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Fears over impact on Indian students of UK’s Graduate Route visa review

Fears over impact on Indian students of UK’s Graduate Route visa review

The UK Home Office has commissioned the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC), the independent body which advises the government on immigration, to review the Graduate Route visa which offers overseas students the opportunity to gain valuable work experience at the end of their university course.

Since it came into force two years ago, 42 per cent of the 176,000 students granted such a visa were Indian nationals. Indeed, it is flagged as the top-most factor behind the recent spike in figures of Indian students choosing the UK as their higher education destination – in turn supporting British universities address a financial crunch given the significantly higher fees paid by overseas students. However, it is now feared that not only will the MAC review reverse much of the progress made in recent months but also unfairly impact the mental health of these students who will be banned from being accompanied by their dependants from the New Year.

Amit Tiwari, National President of the Indian National Students’ Association (INSA) UK, said: “Indian students add approximately £25 billion pounds to the UK economy every year, in addition to other contributions. Indian students have a number of options for higher education, but UK universities are dependent on foreign students’ funds to stay afloat financially.

“INSA shall be taking this matter up with UK authorities to ensure fairness for our students.”

MAC has indicated a wide-ranging review into whether the Graduate Route, also known as a post-study work visa, is benefitting the UK economy.

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In its annual report for 2023, it cautions: “If the objective is to attract talented students who will subsequently work in high-skilled graduate jobs, then we are sceptical that it adds much to the Skilled Worker route which was already available to switch into after graduation, and we expect that at least a significant fraction of the Graduate Route will comprise low-wage workers.”

This broad remit has worried the National Indian Students and Alumni Union (NISAU) UK and its patrons, including Lord Karan Bilimoria who has been campaigning in the House of Lords for a post-study offer for international students for many years. He is among the peers backing NISAU UK’s India UK Achievers Honours, launched last year to celebrate the contributions of overseas Indian students to the UK.

NISAU UK Chairperson Sanam Arora said: “One of our key objectives behind this endeavour is to change mindsets and to show that international students are not merely an immigration statistic, but innovators and changemakers whose contributions in the development of their fields of study and societies must not be ignored.

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“NISAU calls on MAC to engage the higher education sector in designing the scope of the review because where there is a good opportunity is actually to assess how the role is marketed in India and elsewhere.”

Meanwhile, applications for the 2024 India UK Achievers Honours, unveiled at an event in the House of Commons last week, are now open.

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