The UK government formally opened its new post-study work visa, or the Graduate Route, for international students this month. It has been described as a gamechanger for Indian students, already the second-largest cohort of overseas students choosing Britain as their choice of higher education destination.
For the new route, international graduates must have completed an eligible course at a UK higher education provider. It is unsponsored, meaning applicants do not need a job offer to apply and crucially they can use a two-year period to stay on and look for a job. There are no minimum salary requirements or caps on numbers, allowing graduates on the route to work flexibly and even switch jobs as required.
In this interview with iGlobal on the sidelines of the , UK Home Secretary Priti Patel spoke of her sense of optimism as the route opens for applications as part of her wider immigration reforms.
What does this launch mean for international students, including those from India?
It's a big moment for this government under 's leadership. I will not tire of saying that because he has been very, very clear; he is the architect of Global Britain, our place in the world. How we open up to cultures, different communities.
In the case of India, this is the living bridge in action. On top of that, the PM and I have been very vocal about the Graduate Route. The United Kingdom is a destination of choice for thousands of students from across the world, and India obviously has an incredibly special place when it comes to that student relationship with the UK.
You go to the City of London and close your eyes and you can hear every single Indian dialect under the sun. These are the graduates that are keeping our financial services sector up and running, recognising that they are the backbone behind our IT, embedded in our economy. They are embedded in the DNA and heart of our country and that is because of the .
I have always been a great believer in the Graduate Route because wherever you study, you will have a natural affinity with that town, that city, that country. That is why this route is so important.
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Do you feel the work experience opportunities it offers will be crucial?
The employment side is really important, at that pivotal moment in your final year when you think about your future. It is crucial in boosting and bolstering your skills. The degree is so, so important but students also want to move on to the next phase really soon.
The UK is one of the best countries in the world, and this is about the opportunities we can give. When we put the overlay of the diaspora community and what we have to offer, we are unique for Indian students.
Is the extension of the sufficient amid the red list travel restrictions?
Deadlines are there for a reason. We are going to work with our partners in government, Department for Education and the sector as well. That work is always ongoing.
What I can say is that there is no shortage of students from India wanting to come to the United Kingdom. Also, we see this globally as well, as we enter that period when new university courses are starting.
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What are your reflections on this milestone in the PBS; is the system working well?
The system is working extremely well and that's despite the pandemic. In due course, there will be data published around it. We can see certain countries top the list in terms of the applications via the PBS. India is incredibly high in that list and that speaks to professionalism and skills.
In terms of the Graduate Route, I've been an advocate of this even before I became Home Secretary. I backed this throughout, even in previous years in my role as diaspora champion as well.
This is a milestone moment, no question. It speaks to our values, it speaks to our place in the world. For us it's a tremendous milestone of delivery. We are delivering on the promises that we said that we would deliver on. This government has always focussed on delivering on people's priorities, our manifesto commitments and not getting bogged down in the excuses as to why we can't make our country more open and get the brightest and the best to the United Kingdom.