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Plaid Cymru MP urges UK Government to confirm graduate visa will stay following independent review

14 May 2024 5 minute read
Aberystwyth. Picture by AberComms1 (CC BY-SA 4.0).

A Plaid Cymru MP has urged urged the UK Government not to scrap the graduate-route visa, following the publication of an independent review.

Last week, former UK immigration minister Robert Jenrick put forward a series of proposals to curb migration – which included scrapping the graduate route.

In March, Home Secretary James Cleverly said he wanted to ensure the graduate route was “not being abused” and it was supporting the UK to attract and retain “the brightest and the best”.

The UK Government subsequently commissioned a review into the post-study visa, which was published today.

It concluded the post-study visa should be retained in its current form, adding that it helps attract international students, who pay higher tuition fees, to the UK.

The report by the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) said there is no widespread evidence a post-study visa for international students is being “abused” and said that scrapping the visa could “disproportionately impact local and regional economies outside London and South East”.

Blow

Plaid Cymru MP Ben Lake said scrapping the visa would “certainly deal a blow to the economy of Ceredigion”.

Last Thursday, Aberystwyth University in Ceredigion announced there would be a “significant change” to the way it operates to save money after it was impacted by inflation and a “collapse in international recruitment markets”.

Aberystwyth University’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Jon Timmis, announced that the university will be attempting a “transformation programme” to plug the £15 million gap it expects to face over the next year.

This programme could reduce staffing by an estimated 8-11%, likely affecting between 150 and 200 jobs. The University and College Union have said that the impact on Aberystwyth and Ceredigion more widely “will be significant given the university’s economic and cultural importance in the region”.

Prof. Timmis referenced high inflation, stagnant domestic student fees and the downturn in international recruitment as key factors behind this shortfall.

Following his comment, Mr Lake wrote to the Home Secretary to urge him to consider the impact of a lower number of international students on the financial stability of universities, and to maintain the graduate visa.

Ben Lake said: “I welcome the Migration Advisory Committee’s unequivocal advice for the UK Government to keep the graduate-route visa. Scrapping it would cause irreparable damage to universities like Aberystwyth which are already facing a financial crisis.

“The report states that scrapping the route could disproportionately impact local and regional economies outside London and the South East of England, and it would certainly deal a blow to the economy of Ceredigion.

“The Home Office should accept the advice in full and confirm it will maintain the graduate-route visa.”

‘Toxic’

University leaders welcomed the MAC report and called on ministers to end “toxic” uncertainty around the policy by announcing that the post-study visa will stay.

In a letter to the Mac, when commissioning the review, Mr Cleverly suggested the majority of overseas students who switched from the graduate route to a skilled-worker route went into care work.

But the Mac said the data was “incorrect” and about 20% went into care work.

The findings come ahead of the latest net migration figures being published next week.

Under changes, which came into effect in January, international students studying in the UK are no longer able to bring dependants with them, apart from on postgraduate research courses.

The Mac suggests it is likely that there will be a “significant reduction” in future use of the graduate route as a result of the policy changes introduced.

The review said any further restrictions on the graduate route could further exacerbate the decline in international student numbers and lead to job losses, course closures and a reduction in research in UK universities – and it warned it is “not inconceivable that some institutions would fail”.

The report also raised concerns about agents recruiting prospective international students who may be “mis-selling UK higher education”, but it stressed this was a separate issue from the graduate route.

The Government should establish a mandatory registration system for international recruitment agents, the Mac said.

Key

Professor Brian Bell, chairman of the Mac, said: “The graduate route is a key part of the offer that we make to international students to come and study in the UK.

“The fees that these students pay helps universities to cover the losses they make in teaching British students and doing research.

“Without those students, many universities would need to shrink and less research would be done.”

Vivienne Stern, chief executive of Universities UK (UUK), said: “The uncertainty caused by the decision to review the visa has been toxic.”

She added: “We hope and expect that Government now listens to the advice they have been given and provides categorical reassurance that the graduate visa is here to stay.”

But Mr Jenrick suggested the Mac’s conclusions had “been constrained by the narrow terms of reference deliberately set by the Government”.

He said: “If you order white paint, you get a whitewash.”

Downing Street has said it would set out its response to the Mac review of the graduate visa route “in due course”, taking a decision “in the round”.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “The PM has been clear that legal migration numbers are too high. We are working to bring those down.”

He added: “(The Prime Minister) has said before that British students should be the priority for our education system and universities and student visas must be used for education, not immigration.”


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Beau Brummie
Beau Brummie
13 hours ago

Is this the same Ceredigion that is now undergoing a crash in the key
young adult demographic group, with birth rate decline coupling with the highest migration out of Wales in that group?

As indeed was recently highlighted by local MP – Ben Lake!

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-62151531.amp

Is it purely the second home issue, or does the educational and career offer look too bleak and too narrow for the mobile and savvy??

Geraint
Geraint
11 hours ago

So a Tory minister in a Tory government sets the terms of reference for an enquiry. He picks those that will undertake the work and then describes the outcome comes as a whitewash. You couldn’t make it up. Just total incompetence. No wonder things are so bad with these jokers in charge.

Cwm Rhondda
Cwm Rhondda
12 minutes ago

International students are worth several billion pounds a year to the UK economy. They are vital to support our universities in their teaching of UK students. The economy of Aberystwyth relies very heavily on the university. If the university shrinks in size so will the economy of Aberystwyth. The same can be said for the university towns and cities of Bangor, Wrexham, Pontypridd, Carmarthen, Pontypridd, Swansea, and Cardiff. Either directly or indirectly we’ll all be worse off if there are fewer international students studying in Wales. Don’t let the Tory party racists win. It is time for us in Wales… Read more »

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