The Migrant Advisory Committee (MAC) has published its review into the Impact of International Students on the UK. The report commissioned by the Home Secretary in August 2017, considers UK policy towards international students and makes recommendations about how to improve the Tier 4 student visa system in order to maintain the UK as a desirable destination for overseas students.
The UK currently has the second-largest group of international students in the world after the US, with around 750,000 per year. At independent schools there are 28,500 international students who have come to the UK to study and whose parents live abroad.
The number of international students in higher education has grown nearly 30 percent in nine years, although this growth has slowed down in recent years. Competition for international students is increasing and the UK’s market share is declining and at risk of being overtaken.
In summary, the policy recommendations are:
- To retain no cap on the numbers of international students in the UK
- Government and the sector should continue to work together to grow the number of international students
- International students should not be removed from the net migration statistics
- Rules of work while studying and dependant rights should remain the same
- Widening the window in which applications for switches from Tier 4 to Tier 2 can be made
- Post-study leave period extended to six months for Master’s students, though with a more thorough review of whether this is appropriate.
- Previous Tier 4 students, who passed their Level 6 (or above) qualification in the UK, should be entitled to a two year period from course completion during which they can apply out-of-country for a Tier 2 visa, under the same rules as current Tier 4 to Tier 2 switches
- The 12 months leave to remain after PhD completion be incorporated into the original visa duration, subject to meeting progress requirements and course completion, for eligibility to remain in the UK after course end date. This would replace the existing Doctoral Extension Scheme that allows the same rights but has to be applied for with associated visa costs.
While MAC notes that many of the evidence submissions it received called for a more generous regime for post-study work visas, the Committee's report does not recommend the creation of a separate such visa.
The report mainly endorses the current Tier 4 rules and proposed changes will not represent a huge shift in current policy, but will potentially make it easier for international students to make the transition to from higher education to working in the UK.
By Hesham Shoeb
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