UK’s post-study Graduate Route visa not being abused, concludes review

UK’s post-study Graduate Route visa not being abused, concludes review

The independent Migration Advisory Committee (MAC), which had been tasked by UK Home Secretary James Cleverly to undertake a rapid review of the Graduate Route post-study work visa, has concluded that it is not being abused and is fulfilling its aims.

The visa offer, which allows international students to gain work experience for up to two years after their university course, is most popular with Indian students followed by Nigerians and Chinese. Indians accounted for 89,200 visa grants under the Graduate Route between 2021 and 2023, making up over 40 per cent of the overall grants.

MAC Chair Professor Brian Bell said: “Our review recommends the Graduate Route should remain as it is and is not undermining the quality and integrity of the UK’s higher education system.

“The Graduate Route is a key part of the offer that we make to international students to come and study in the UK. The fees that these students pay helps universities to cover the losses they make in teaching British students and doing research. Without those students, many universities would need to shrink and less research would be done.”

The ‘Rapid Review of the Graduate Route’, which was based on inputs of several stakeholder organisations including Indian student groups in the UK, concluded that the route should remain open as it was not only important to international students but also to universities’ financial health. It, however, did take evidence on board of some “poor practices” among agents who were mis-selling the post-study offer and advised a mandatory registration system for such dubious operators in the education sector.


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Amit Tiwari, President of the Indian National Students Association (INSA) UK, said: “We welcome the recommendations of the MAC on graduate visas since they emphasise data over rhetoric. The document clearly illustrates how international fees help UK universities stay afloat as well as how the Graduate Route visa makes studying in the UK more attractive.

“In particular, we would like to thank MAC for bringing attention to the current sad state of international recruitment practices by the universities. The various political parties are also urged not to use students for political debates on migration in an election year.”

Amid an overall UK government crackdown on visas, the review cautions that under the current higher education funding model, closure or additional restrictions on the Graduate Route could put many universities at financial risk.

Sanam Arora, Chair of the National Indian Students and Alumni Union (NISAU) UK, said: "We are delighted that the MAC has accepted our and the sector’s recommendation to retain the Graduate Route. We are very pleased also that our concerns around mis-selling of education by unscrupulous agents has been considered, and corrective recommendations have been made.

“We spent a fair bit of time explaining the distinction between ‘work’ and ‘work experience’; 70 per cent of Indian students have told us that the number one driver of what makes them choose between ultimately Australia or Canada or UK or America is the ability to gain that work experience for a couple of years. Stability is key; it is now absolutely critical that the UK government confirms urgently that the Graduate Route is here to stay.”


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Universities UK (UUK), the leading representative body for UK universities, echoed these concerns, with its chief executive Vivienne Stern warning that the uncertainty caused by the decision to review the visa has been “toxic”.

“We hope and expect that government now listens to the advice they have been given and provides categorical reassurance that the Graduate visa is here to stay,” she added.

The Home Office has said that it is “considering the review’s findings very closely” and will respond fully in due course.

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