Row over plan to deport foreign students months after graduating

Row over foreign students as Home Secretary Suella Braverman pushes for visa change that would force them out of the UK if they haven’t got a ‘skilled job’ six months after graduating

  • Currently those travelling to study in Britain can stay on for two years afterwards
  • Department for Education resisting plan to cut that period to just six months
  • Home Office said visa abused by people on short courses at low-ranking unis

Home Secretary Suella Braverman is at the center of a new row over foreign students after moving to cut the amount of time they can stay in the UK after graduating.

Currently those travelling to study in Britain can stay on for two years after completing their courses.

But the Department for Education is said to be resisting Ms Braverman’s plan to cut that to just six months, after which they have to have a skilled job that makes them eligible for a work visa, or leave the UK.

It is the latest twist in a long-running row over foreign student numbers. Ms Braverman has committed to cut immigration and ‘substantially reduce’ the number of unskilled foreign workers coming to Britain, from 239,000 to the ‘tens of thousands’.

As part of that she wants to reduce the numbers of international students who can apply for a graduate post-study work visa, which allows any student who has passed their degree to remain and work in the UK for at least two years.

But education officials fear this will make the UK less attractive to foreign students, who pay far more than UK students for their courses and are a major source of income for universities.

The Department for Education is said to be resisting Ms Braverman’s plan to cut that to just six months, after which they have to have a skilled job that makes them eligible for a work visa, or leave the UK.

It is the latest twist in a long-running row over foreign student numbers. Ms Braverman has committed to cut immigration and ‘substantially reduce’ the number of unskilled foreign workers coming to Britain, from 239,000 to the ‘tens of thousands’.

Figures released by the Higher Education Statistics Agency last week showed that there were almost 680,000 foreign students in 2021-22 academic year – with non-EU outnumbering EU students by almost five-fold.

Documents seen by the Times argue that the two-year visa is in line with most of the UK’s competitors, apart from the US, which offers a year-long visa. 

But a Home Office source told the paper the route was being used as ‘a backdoor immigration route’ by people taking short courses at ‘less respectable universities’.

Figures released by the Higher Education Statistics Agency last week showed that there were almost 680,000 foreign students in 2021-22 academic year – with non-EU outnumbering EU students by almost five-fold. 

It means it has already met a target of attracting 600,000 a year by 2030, set in 2019. 

Among other measures being considered by the Home Office is restricting visa applications only to those who have completed studied in high-demand subject areas, such as engineering.

University bosses have hit out at plans to throttle numbers, saying it sent a message ‘that the UK is unwelcoming and hostile to international students’ who make bring £25.9 billion per year to the UK economy through fees and spending.

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