The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) released its report today on the impact of international students in the UK. They have made recommendations to change the student visa policy after evidence gathered for this report, and engagement with stakeholders.

Historically, the UK has the second-largest group of international students in the world after the US but there is a real risk the UK will be overtaken by Australia. The UK leaving the EU also poses new threats. Although international student numbers have risen in recent years, the UK’s overall market share has fallen slightly, and competitor countries are more active in recruitment.

The MAC understands that the UK’s competitors require students to obtain visas to enter as students, however, any barriers to student mobility are likely to have a negative impact.

The main recommendations are:

  • Retain no cap on the numbers of international students;
  • Rules of work while study and dependent rights should remain unchanged;
  • Not re-introduce a 2 year post-study work visa. The value should be the qualification rather than the opportunity to take a graduate level job and settle in the UK;
  • Government and the sector should continue to work together to grow the number of international students;
  • International students should not be removed from the net migration statistics;
  • Widen the window in which applications for switches from Tier 4 to Tier 2 can be made;
  • Post-study leave period extended to six months for Master’s students, though with a more thorough review of whether this is appropriate;
  • The 12 months leave to remain after PhD completion to be incorporated into the original visa duration, subject to meeting progress requirements and course completion, for eligibility to remain in the UK after course end date. This would replace the existing Doctoral Extension scheme that allows the same rights but has to be applied for with associated visa costs;
  • Previous Tier 4 students, who passed their Level 6 (or above) qualification in the UK, should be entitled to a two-year period during which they can apply out-of-country for a Tier 2 visa, under the same rules as current in -country Tier 4 to Tier 2 switches i.e. being exempt from the Resident Labour Market Test (RLMT) and Immigration Skills Charge.

Read the whole report here:

https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/739089/Impact_intl_students_report_published_v1.1.pdf