Foreign students sidetracked by job search and internships

Non-EU cohort under pressure to secure work after the abolition of the post-study work visa

November 6, 2014

Source: Alamy

Surveyed: 77 per cent of respondents agreed that immigration reforms meant learners were less likely to come to the UK

International students are being distracted by the need to acquire work experience or apply for jobs during their course following the removal of the post-study work visa in the UK.

That was among the findings of a survey of current and recent students of the London School of Economics, which also revealed that 77 per cent of the 1,336 respondents agreed that learners were less likely to come to the UK from overseas as a result of immigration reforms.

Indian students felt most aggrieved, with 68 per cent strongly agreeing with this statement, compared with 55 per cent of Chinese respondents. The questionnaire found that 49 per cent of respondents had planned to work in the UK after their studies, with 28 per cent answering “maybe”.

Asked whether they would take advantage of the opportunity to work in the UK at any level for two years after graduation if the government reintroduced the post-study work scheme that was abolished in 2012, 86 per cent of respondents said that they would be very likely or likely to do so.

The survey found that students were doing internships or applying for jobs while they were learning in a bid to secure a job at the appropriate skill and salary level within four months of graduation, as required under the new rules. One described “pushing myself past my limit” by doing an internship alongside their studies in order to persuade an employer to sponsor their visa.

Withdrawing job offers

Respondents indicated that the visa process deterred small- and medium-sized employers from employing overseas graduates.

Other respondents described being offered jobs, only to have the offer withdrawn once the employer learned of their immigration status.

One LSE graduate detailed the “horrific” experience of applying for more than 200 jobs and receiving only one offer for a post outside their field at the “very lowest salary possible” because the employer knew that non-European Union citizens were “desperate for a visa”.

The post-study work issue is particularly acute for the LSE, where 51 per cent of the current student body is made up of non-EU citizens. The university’s study has been submitted to the inquiry into the topic which is being carried out by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Migration.

Simeon Underwood, the LSE’s academic registrar and director of academic services, told Times Higher Education that visa restrictions were “tantamount to closing off opportunities for post-study work altogether” for many students. “That hasn’t stopped them from looking for it, and some of them are having a horrible time as a result,” he said.

The LSE’s response to the inquiry says that, if the post-study work route cannot be restored, graduates should at least be entitled to a one-year work visa.

Dominic Scott, chief executive of UK Council for International Student Affairs, said that evidence to the inquiry had shown that the removal of the post-study work visa had been “disastrous, harming our recruitment, our reputation and our employers’ access to very considerable international talent on its doorstep”.

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