The cross-party All Party Parliamentary Group on Migration published on 24 February an inquiry report into the impact of the government’s decision to close the post-study work route in 2012.
The post-study work route allowed non-European Union graduates to seek employment in the UK for up to two years after their studies.
In the wake of the change, the number of overseas students at UK universities fell last year, for the first time since records began in 1994-95.
The MPs say that “the current UK post-study work opportunities should be reconsidered”, with a view to “maximising the attractiveness of UK higher education in the face of an increasingly competitive international marketplace”, “continuing to serve the interests of UK employers, particularly within growth areas of the economy such as STEM” and “sending a positive message internationally that the UK is ‘open for business’”.
Among its recommendations, the report says that a “new immigration route should be established which allows non-EEA [European Economic Area] students to remain in the UK for a period of at least 12 months following graduation from a recognised domestic academic institution, in order to secure skilled employment”.
Labour MP Paul Blomfield, chair of the group, said: “The report lays bare the negative impact that closure of the former post-study work visa has had on British businesses and universities.
“Alternative visa routes have failed to attract talent and have actually prevented skilled graduates from contributing to the UK jobs market. There is strong cross-party agreement on the need to take action to restore our reputation as the ‘destination of choice’ for international students from all countries.”
Conservative MP Richard Bacon, a member of the group, said the “government’s current approach to post-study work and student migration policy is jeopardising Britain’s position in the global race for talent”.
He added: “We need to adjust our policy and improve our ability to attract students from around the world.”