Most people in the UK believe that international students should be allowed to stay in the country for two or more years after graduation, new polling has revealed.
The survey results were released by Universities UK as it called on the government to allow foreign graduates to stay on for up to two years after their course finishes, to match similar offers from rival nations such as the US, Canada and Australia.
The government’s decision to abolish post-study work visas in 2012 is widely seen as having restricted demand from students in some countries. The move was seen as a particular factor in the dramatic decline in the number of Indian students coming to the UK.
UUK, which was set to hold its annual conference at Sheffield Hallam University on 4-5 September, commissioned ComRes to carry out polling on public views on international students, interviewing 4,302 adults online in the UK.
Those surveyed were presented with details of the post-study work regime in Canada and Australia and asked to select from a range of options what they considered to be “the most appropriate time period” for students to remain in the UK to work post-graduation.
Fourteen per cent said “less than one year”, but 20 per cent said one year, 21 per cent said two years, 21 per cent said three years and 11 per cent said more than three years.
And 74 per cent of those polled agreed with the statement that “when international students graduate from UK universities, it is better if they use their skills here and work in the UK for a period of time in order to contribute to the economy rather than returning immediately to their home country after completing their study”.
UUK, which bills post-study work as key to making the UK more attractive to overseas students, said that its proposal for a new type of visa “would allow a wider range of employers – in all parts of the UK – to benefit from access to talented graduates from around the world, including small and medium employers who do not have Tier 2 sponsorship licences, usually due to the high costs and bureaucracy involved”.
It added that “the US and Canada offer international graduates the opportunity to stay and work for up to three years after graduation, and Australia for up to four years. New Zealand has recently announced reforms to its student visa policies and will now allow all international graduates to stay and work for up to three years, without the need for employer sponsorship.”
Dame Janet Beer, UUK president and vice-chancellor of the University of Liverpool, said: “This improved post-study visa would put us on a par with what is offered by countries such as the US, Canada and Australia.
“It would send a more welcoming message to international students and signal that the UK is open to talented individuals from around the world. As Brexit discussions continue, the UK needs an ambitious immigration policy that helps boost our regional and global competitiveness.”
In the poll, answering another question on international student numbers, 21 per cent of respondents said that they wanted to see more international students, 40 per cent the same number, 19 per cent fewer and 20 per cent chose “don’t know”.