Positive response as UK lays out graduate route details

The UK’s international education sector has welcomed the government’s recent announcement that it will open applications for its new graduate scheme on July 1, 2021.

Students on the Graduate route will be able to work or look for work after their studies for a maximum period of two years, or three years for doctoral students.

Both Universities UK International and UKCISA said that the government had listened to key recommendations from the sector.

“As we rebuild from the global pandemic we want the world’s brightest talent, who aspire to a career at the highest levels of business, science, the arts and technology to see our United Kingdom as the natural place to fulfil their aspirations,” said minister for future borders and immigration Kevin Foster.

“The changes announced today (March 5) will ensure once they have received a gold standard qualification from one of our world leading education institutions they can easily secure the status they need to continue living, working and fulfilling their dreams in the UK.”

In order to be eligible for the scheme, students must have completed an eligible course at a UK higher education provider, with a track record of compliance with the government’s immigration requirements.

The government said that the route will be unsponsored, meaning applicants will not need a job offer to apply.

“There will be no minimum salary requirements nor caps on numbers. Graduates on the route will be able to work flexibly, switch jobs and develop their career as required,” the government said in a statement.

It is hoped that the new route will help the government to achieve the ambition set out in the International Education Strategy to increase the number of international students in higher education in the UK to 600,000 by 2030.

Coronavirus concessions for students unable to travel to the UK due to the pandemic have also been extended, “recognising the continuing disruption many face due to international travel restrictions”.

A UUKi spokesperson told The PIE News that after working closely with the Home Office and sector partners, they were pleased to see the change in date by which students who started a course of 12 months or less in 2020 must be in the UK to be eligible for the Graduate route.

“The new date of June 21 reflects the current international travel situation due to Covid-19, and allows international students to benefit from the post-study work opportunities offered by the route.

“We look forward to working with member universities and the wider sector to welcome students to apply for the route from July 1,” the spokesperson said.

The move was also welcomed by founder and chairperson of the National Indian Students & Alumni Union UK whose organisation has been campaigning for the route for over six years.

UKCISA said that the government had listened to some key recommendations made by the organisation in the creation of the route.

“We are very pleased to see our key asks and recommendations reflected in the details of the new Graduate route – and are grateful to the government for listening to and consulting with the sector to inform its design,” said UKCISA chief executive, Anne Marie Graham.

These concessions included revisions to the eligibility requirements, including the removal of self-employment restrictions and an amendment to the April 6, cut-off date for eligibility – students will now need to be in the UK by the June 21, as per the government’s lockdown easing plan.

“These concessions will help ensure a welcoming offer for international students, in line with the goals of the revised International Education Strategy, and will help fulfil our collective ambition to deliver a world-class international student experience here in the UK.”

Nebu George, international student and UKCISA #WeAreInternational student ambassador said that the easing of self-employment restrictions and the new cut off date for eligibility come as a “huge relief for all international students wishing to stay and work in the UK”.

“I am very grateful to the government and the sector for listening to the voices of international students and investing in a better student experience for us.

“Our voices being heard is an excellent sign of the government’s commitment to delivering a world-class international student experience in the UK,” George said.

UKCISA and the Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services are running a survey on the new graduate route and how it is influencing students’ career decisions, which is open until March 23.