• June 13, 2024

UK’s Graduate Visa Programs Shall Stay, Sunak Plans Restrictions On Foreign Education Agents

The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Rishi Sunak, is expected to announce a restriction on foreign education agents marketing overseas graduates visa schemes, aiming to extend a tough glance on migration. This comes before the general elections of the year and after the regulator of UK universities warned of strong financial strains on institutions because of the decline in the number of international students.

According to a recent report, the new measures are expected to be disclosed next week. The revelation will coincide with quarterly migration data release from the Office for National Statistics and the Home Office. The crackdown shall include mandatory registration and fines for agents engaging in malpractices. 

The UK Prime Minister is also thinking of following strict criteria for the graduate visa scheme. This criteria shall limit potential visas to the brightest and the best. This approach has yet to be discussed formally with all the ministers. Education Secretary Gillian Keegan and the Chancellor Jeremy Hunt resist this proposal. They are worried about the financial impact of this proposal on universities if the number of international students drops further. 

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Whether or not to limit the graduate visa scheme to top-tier students will depend on the upcoming figures of net migration. Education Secretary Gillian Keegan supports measures that prevent agents abusing the system. However, she opposes access limited to the scheme based on the degree type or quality of the student. She believes that the planned crackdown cannot be all about the PPEs from Oxford. 

The independent migration advisor of the UK government recommended recently maintaining the present visa scheme. The current visa scheme allows international students to reside for two years in the United Kingdom post-graduation. Despite this scheme, UK PM Rishi Sunak plans to bring measures that target international students amidst the pressure from his political party to reduce legal migration ahead of the elections. The recent report by the migration advisor committee highlights concerns about recruitment agents. It suggests tighter regulation, including transparency in university spending on foreign education students and mandatory registration. 

A report by the British Government also highlights the role of the Graduate Route visa in financially supporting universities as well as enhancing the landscape of research in the United Kingdom. In 2023, over 114,000 Graduate Route visas were issued. The visas were primarily issued to nationals from Pakistan, India, China, and Nigeria. The majority of the Graduate Route visa holders were post-graduates from universities of the non-Russel Group. Despite concerns about recruitment agent exploitation, the Migration Advisory Committee stated how positively the Graduate Route visa has impacted the United Kingdom’s economy. 

Many businesses and universities have warned against the overly restrictive measures to be introduced by the Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak. They argue that the spotlight on the elite students is misguided. Many multinationals investing in the United Kingdom have also raised concerns that the new migration policy could weaken innovation and cutting-edge research. In an open letter, they all expressed their concern about declining student applications due to the policy of the United Kingdom, etc.