Study Group welcomes report of the UK All Party Parliamentary Group for International Students into the Graduate Visa

An international student in her workplace in London.

Study Group is pleased to welcome the launch of an important and timely report from the All Party Parliamentary Group for International Students - The Graduate Visa: An Effective Post-Study Pathway for International Students in the UK?

The report follows an inquiry into the effectiveness of the UK Graduate visa which invited international students and graduates to share their views and experiences, as well as employers, universities and representative bodies such as Independent Higher Education, UK Committee International Student Affairs, AGCAS and BUILA. It also draws on an in-depth review of data on international student concerns, aspirations and outcomes, and of graduate visas in other study destinations such as the USA, Australia, Canada and Germany.

Speaking at the parliamentary launch, report author and Director of Policy and Development at Independent Higher Education Dr Joy Elliott-Bowman - herself once a Canadian international student at the University of Aberdeen - outlined 10 recommendations for government, education providers and for the sector working together, including:

Recommendations for the UK Government

1. Government must publicly commit to maintaining the Graduate visa into the next Parliament.

2. Government should commit to regular reviews of the global competitiveness and effectiveness of the Graduate visa as part of the annual review of the International Education Strategy.

3.Government should ensure students don’t lose leave as they transition between Student and Graduate visas, and permit leave extensions for students registered on professional accreditation or extended graduate programmes.

4. As part of their ambitions to grow higher technical education, the Department for Education should consider the role international students could play in addressing skills shortages and supporting local colleges.

5. Government should maintain other routes for post-study work to provide choice and facilitate different outcomes. Clarification and simplification of the ways to switch routes will be key.

Recommendations for Higher Education Institutions

6. A clear national strategy should be developed to address the unique employment challenges faced by international graduates and support the effectiveness of the Graduate visa.

7. Higher education providers should play a proactive liaison role between students and local employers.

Recommendations for cooperation

8. Government and the higher education sector must collaborate to endorse the Graduate visa and communicate it effectively to students and employers.

9. A UK-wide international education data strategy should be developed jointly between Government, education institutions and stakeholder bodies, including evaluation of the impact of the Graduate visa across the student journey, and the economic and soft power contribution of international graduates.

10. Institutions and employers should work together to mitigate the costs of the Graduate visa for students from lower and middle income backgrounds.

The report was also warmly welcomed by the Director of representative body Universities UK International Jamie Arrowsmith who added,

“It is vital that the UK remains an open and welcoming destination for international students, and that their contribution is recognised and valued. Higher education is one of the UK's most important and successful exports - but it is truly unique, in that alongside generating a significant economic contribution to the UK, our universities have a hugely positive global impact, creating opportunity for millions of learners and helping address some of the most pressing global challenges."

As the UK debates policy related to all aspects of immigration in anticipation of a 2024 General Election, the All Party Parliamentary Group for International Students offers a vital informed cross-party position and its MP Members and Peers include a former Education Secretary and a University Chancellor.

Guests at the report launch in Parliament reaffirmed their commitment to welcoming and supporting international students and enabling the best possible early career experience after graduation through greater certainty and clarity, improved advice, a globally competitive offer and an understanding that post-study work is an integral part of international education for most students.

Study Group’s work in support of these issues is led by Managing Director James Pitman, who serves as Vice-Chair of Independent Higher Education which supported the report’s publication and was a founding advisor to the UK All Party Parliamentary Group on International Students, and by Executive Director of External Affairs and cofounder of the #WeAreInternational campaign Ruth Arnold.

Read more about our work as international education specialists.