Home » Prime Minister has ‘agreed to keep Graduate Route’ – Report

Prime Minister has ‘agreed to keep Graduate Route’ – Report

UNITED KINGDOM

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak appears to have accepted the recommendation of the independent review of the politically charged Graduate Route that the United Kingdom government should leave the post-study work visa scheme in its current form.

The route allows international students to stay in the UK for two years after graduation to try to find work.

The Financial Times reported that sources had told them that the British prime minister “has backed away from radical reform of the graduate visa route, after a fierce cabinet backlash and warnings that driving away foreign students could hit growth and undermine Britain’s universities”.

The Financial Times report, carried first online on the evening of 21 May 2024, said the decision to maintain the graduate visa scheme in its current form is expected to be announced on Thursday 23 May.

That will follow migration data published by the Home Office, “which is expected to show a significant drop in the number of people being issued visas to work in the UK, including among graduates”, the paper reported.

The Financial Times said senior government officials have told them that ministers are expected to go along with a more modest package of reforms, which are likely to include “tightening the screws on agents that market British degree courses overseas by penalising those that are not supplying the type of students they promise”.

The review of the graduate route by the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) was ordered by the UK’s Home Secretary James Cleverly, who was under pressure from right-wing elements in the governing Conservative Party to curb migration and stamp out any abuse of the Graduate Route.

The rapid review was only given two months to complete its work and reported on 14 May, 2024, that it found “no evidence of widespread abuse specifically for the Graduate Route” and concluded that the graduate work visas were “not undermining the integrity of and quality of the UK higher education system”.

The MAC chair, Professor Brian Bell, reported: “Our review recommends the Graduate Route should remain as it is.”

He said: “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. This highlights the complex interaction between immigration policy and higher education policy.”

’Exploitation’ concerns

However, the review did raise “concerns about potential exploitation” of both student and graduate visa holders due to poor practices by certain agents who recruit students into courses and may be mis-selling UK higher education – but the committee said that was a separate issue.

It recommended that the government establishes a mandatory registration system for international recruitment agents and sub agents and that universities should be required to publish data on how much they spend on recruitment agents and the number of international students recruited through such means annually.

University World News reported reaction to the MAC findings here.