The new post-study work (PSW) visa or Graduate route announced by UK Home Secretary Priti Patel is a great stimulant to prospective graduates who will have the golden ticket to explore the various job options available within their grasp.
Like every other Indian student coming to the UK, I chose this country to pursue my Master’s for its global exposure, world-class universities and a relatively thriving job market. I went on to study International Political Economy at King’s College London and I belong to the unfortunate batch of students who came to this country in 2019 and got caught squarely in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Most of the 2019-2020 batch of Indian students have been caught up in an extremely worrying conundrum – not qualifying for the Graduate route but also being particularly hard hit by the pandemic. I spoke to several students in a similar boat to gauge the kind of hurdles they have been grappling with.
A worried Somya Jain, MSc in Accounting and Finance from London School of Economics (LSE), recalls her sleepless nights to secure a job.
“I was told that there was no point of going to London for further education as the job prospects were low. So when I did come to London I immediately started to apply even before I began my university, while others were still settling in. For international students, our options are limited, and that’s the worst part. We can only apply to companies that sponsor us even if that means not applying for your dream job,” she explains.
She adds: “I remember applying for six jobs, all in audit as I knew it had the highest intake. And every application had 10 different tests and interviews. It was a struggle as some days I would get rejections from companies and yet I would need to put up a smile and prepare for the next interview, refusing to give up. After tons of applications, I finally got selected for that one assessment centre.
“I feel the fact that I started early from September 2019 gave me that advantage but I also missed out on the initial phase of exploring and settling in London. With a PSW scheme, we would get more time on our hands to properly prepare for the interviews, and more importantly choose a job that we would prefer, instead of being stuck with what’s available for international students.”
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The initial lockdown began in March 2020 and went on till the end of October 2020, with its impact spilling over into 2021 and we are still edging towards the lifting of restrictions in the UK.
It was an essential step taken by the UK government concerning the health risk that Covid-19 posed. However, this was also the prime time during which top companies offer internships and graduate training programmes that eventually lead to permanent jobs for international students. With the pandemic scenario going on, these programmes and recruitments were either frozen or students were recruited to a lesser degree, leaving most of my batch (2019-2020) of students without any employment opportunities.
I feel that I am in this country at an unfortunate time, with only four months available to me since graduating in December 2020 to find a job and visa sponsorship in a market which was closed and working remotely. As far as the job-seeking efforts are concerned, they remain robustly ongoing even as the lockdown continues and employment opportunities have only just begun to open up.
Maitrayee Das Majumdar, MSc in Behavioural Psychology and Behavioural Economics from London School of Economics, shares: “I believe that as a batch, we've constantly had to learn and unlearn the fact that things will be better soon! I am very glad that for the first part of our course, we at least got to get the whole experience of it but when Covid hit, I could literally hear all our dreams shattering, one hurried booked ticket at a time.
“We had to adapt to our virtual lives so quickly that time became a standstill and our graduations became virtual too. A batch that went through so much and is still going through the pain of searching for jobs in an economy that is shattered, the least we deserve is a PSW visa, as somewhere we should have some advantage!”
What feels unfair is that the next batch of students have the Graduate scheme on offer, which would grant them two years of work visa on completion of their university course. This works in their favour as the rules have changed much to their good fortune.
However, the fact of the matter is that more than 80 per cent of them have not been able to come to the UK as yet due to the ongoing pandemic related travel restrictions.
Yuvraj Borkhade, MSc Finance & Private Equity from London School of Economics, attempts a more positive outlook: “As it is, the Covid-19 pandemic has drastically limited graduate job opportunities. Many of my British and European friends from LSE, who don’t need a visa sponsorship, are yet to secure a job in the current market environment. With a visa sponsorship barrier, it gets even more difficult for the international students to land an ideal role.
“I’m aware that the PSW Scheme was never intended for the 2020 graduating batch to start with; but given how the year has unfolded, including the 2020 batch in the scheme can potentially alter an entire class’ career trajectory for good."
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Our parents have invested a huge amount on our education and we have studied very hard, sacrificing a lot to acquire the skills and the opportunities to work in a challenging environment conducive to growth, something the UK is known for.
Sanyam Gupta, MSc in Management from University College London, opens up: “My experience in seeking a job post my graduation has been very anxious. I have literally applied at more than 300 companies as I was just granted four months of post study visa to find a job. That is literally impossible with the circumstances which became even harder because of Covid.
“On average, a company takes two to four months for the whole process before giving an offer letter. With the news of students from the coming years getting two years and no decision taken for the students in the 2019, seems very absurd to me.
“I have been trying to keep myself and people around me motivated, but don't know how long we have to go before we see some results. It's also a flustering situation for the parents as they have to send money regularly, considering the living costs are really high, with the council tax and bills. In these unprecedented times, we need some support from the government, companies and universities to steer us in the right direction.”
As young graduates from India who have studied at some of the top universities of the world, all we seek is a fair Covid impact assessment of our future career prospects. Surely it would be a lost opportunity for the UK if it was to lose out on skilled professionals on a visa technicality.
Kinjal Vernekar is a Freelance Contributor to iGlobalNews.Com.