Post study work route: what’s the evidence of its impact?

The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Migration (APPG on Migration) published a report analysing the opportunities international students have for work in the UK after they finish university since the removal of the Post-Study Work Visa in 2011.


The report found that since the closure of the post-study work visa route, there has been a decrease of 88% in the number of students securing visas to stay work in the UK after university.

Businesses especially SME’s and startups have reported difficulty finding the right skills to recruit on the local market and have voiced real concerns not being able to easily hire international talents. Competitor countries, including Germany, Canada and Australia, offer far more generous post-study & work opportunities than the UK currently does.

UK Universities, under a budget cut since 2011, have also complained of a loss of revenue. 20% of the total universities output is generated from the enrolment of non-EU students. The UK’s intake of students from overseas declined in 2012-13 for the first time in 29 years.

Overall, the APPG reports that alternative visa routes have failed to retain international students talent and tat the removal of the PSW has prevented skilled graduates from contributing to the UK jobs market.

Reasons for the closure of the post-study work route
The closure of the post-study work route was justified by Conservative Home Secretary Theresa May, who said the route was being abused by “foreign graduates staying on in the UK to work in unskilled jobs”.

Ministers have been at pains to prove with facts that foreign graduates were taking the jobs of locals. As well, it has been at rooting out the abuse of graduate students working in low-skilled occupations.

However, the Home Office’s objectives are to ‘reduce net migration’ to the 100,000 by ‘tightening and [making] strict changes to immigration rules.

The route left for international students to stay work in the UK

The government’s Tier 2 (General) visa has been seen as the only option left to international students after graduation to stay work in the UK. The visa route will only allow students to work if they can find an employer with a Home Office-sponsored license, who is willing to pay at least £20,300 a year, and only to students at Bachelor’s, Master’s or PHD degree level. Postgraduate diplomas (apart from PGCE & PGDE teaching qualifications) are disqualified from this scheme.

The government introduced the new Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) visa route, which reduces the capacity to freely setup a business but allows approved business idea from graduate students with a university sponsorship (only selected universities) to stay and set up a UK business.

Since its inception in 2012 (for the first 3 quarters) 129 Graduate Entrepreneur Visas had been issued to graduate entrepreneurs, a low number if reported to the 2,000 visas available. A main reason suggested to explain low numbers is the fear from universities to lose their sponsor licenses.

The government’s push for international students to move on to Tier 2 visas has not taken into account the needs of start-ups in Tech and low graduate starting salaries in sectors such as Creative Industry. It also allows a disparity in pay, non-EEA graduates have to be on base pay of £20,300 while domestic and EU graduates can be employed for much cheaper.

Thanks to Awale Olad, Public & Parliamentary Affairs Officer at MRN, and coordinating the work of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Migration – for the collaboration on this article. The APPG on Migration supports cross-party parliamentarians with their work in both the House of Commons and House of Lords, previously launched an inquiry into the impact of the closure of the family migration route.

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