Visa 'rhetoric' a sorry business for the UK

Government rhetoric over visas is to blame for a perception that the UK is not a good place for international students to set up a business, according to a recent survey

January 24, 2013

Just 11 per cent of the overseas students questioned for Open for Business? Survey of International Student Perceptions of Post-Study Opportunities in the UK, a study by Loughborough University and Paragon Law, would recommend the UK as a place to start a business.

Adam Warren, a lecturer in human geography at Loughborough and co-author of the study, said the message to international students at UK universities was that, after studying, “the government really wants you to just go home”.

The government has tightened student visa rules - including ending the automatic right to work after graduation - although it has stressed that there is no cap on numbers.

It has also introduced a graduate entrepreneur visa for up to 1,000 students a year who are already studying within the UK and have been identified as having “world class innovative ideas or entrepreneurial skills” by their universities.

But Dr Warren said that few survey respondents had heard of this visa and added that universities “are a bit cautious about promoting this route as they don’t know how long it’s going to go on”.

Students applying for the graduate entrepreneur visa also need to have access to at least £50,000 to invest in their business, a criterion that put off at least one survey respondent, who said: “Not everyone is Richard Branson’s offspring.”

Of those students who wished to set up a business, only 23 per cent said they wanted to start it in the UK. Just over half said they would establish one in their home country.

Job prospects were perceived to be worse in the UK than in students’ home countries. Despite this, 42 per cent of respondents said they wished to stay in the UK after graduation.

UK universities were perceived positively, however, and 71 per cent of respondents said they would recommend them to others.

The results come from an online survey of 585 overseas students conducted between October and December 2012.

david.matthews@tsleducation.com.

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