MAC to review the graduate visa route

16 Jan 2024, 08 mins ago

Explore the UK Graduate Visa Route review, its impact on international students and the quest for aligning talent with high-skilled jobs.

The UK graduate visa route, designed to retain international talent post-study, is under scrutiny. A recent report by the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) has highlighted concerns that the scheme is attracting “low-wage” migrants rather than the envisioned “global talent”. Introduced in 2021, the visa allows international students to work in the UK for two years post-graduation.

Despite its popularity—having already surpassed initial government estimates—the MAC remains sceptical about the visa’s alignment with its original goals. Notably, there’s been a significant uptake in enrolments at less selective and more affordable universities. Whilst this expansion has bolstered the UK’s position as a leading study destination, questions arise about the scheme’s alignment with high-skilled job placement.

A staggering 42% of the 176,000 students granted visas since 2021 hail from India, underscoring the visa’s importance to this demographic. Professor Brian Bell, MAC Chair, hints at potential changes, ranging from activity restrictions to course limitations, with recommendations expected by late 2024.

The debate isn’t just academic; it has real-world implications. As British universities grapple with financial challenges, the graduate route’s economic impact—contributing nearly £42 billion in 2021/22—cannot be overlooked. The impending review, therefore, seeks a delicate balance: preserving the visa’s benefits whilst ensuring its alignment with the UK’s high-skilled job market needs.

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