The UK Home Office has announced that whether they start or finish their studies online in the academic year 2020/21 international students will remain eligible for post-study job privileges upon graduation.
The news will be welcomed by those working in universities and critical stakeholders campaigning for the UK to come out fighting to retain its international student market share.
International students will continue to be eligible to access the immigration route for graduates as long as they are in the UK by April 6 and complete the final semester of their UK studies.
The guidance notes, ” If Covid-19 requires students to either continue their current studies or begin a new course by distance or mixed learning, they would still be able to transfer to the Graduate route on a concessionary basis if they have spent any time studying outside the UK”.
Among those calling for clarification were industry bodies UUKi, UKCISA and BUILA, which outlined a range of steps required to “kick-start recovery” of the sector.
It included ensuring that online learning would not disqualify Graduate Route students: “Students who study part of their course online and are therefore spending less than 11 months in the UK should not miss out on the Graduate Route,” the position paper stated.
The graduate path was revealed in September 2019, when the UK is changing its immigration program and leaving the European Union formally.
“It is a long-awaited and timely policy announcement and is urgently needed to help organisations deliver as much as possible from a pipeline that looked so promising only a few months ago,” commented Gary Davies, PVC at London Metropolitan University for student recruitment and business growth.
Davies also called for more guidance from UKVI: UK sector bodies are calling on the UK to extend to six months from the current three visa applications to give students confidence that they will have a valid visa while travelling to the UK.
“To have UKVI update their guidance ahead of the end of next month will also have a similar impact. Our future students take decisions now, and we need assurance now, “Davies said. Post-study work visa packages play a vital role in attracting and retaining international students, with the UK seen to have a loss of market share after work rights were rescinded a few years ago.
IDP Connect also shared student search data showing that after Canada maintained the same online study rules that did not impact post-study job privileges, the related search requests for Canada on its platform had increased.
IDP Connect also shared student search data showing that the relevant search requests for Canada on its platform had risen after Canada retained the same online study rules that did not affect post-study work privileges.
In the same week, as the home office clarified rules in revised Tier 4 guidelines, former UK university minister Jo Johnson called on the government to increase the duration of UK post-study work visa from two to four years to help the sector tackle Covid-19 and Brexit’s increase shock.