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Indian students organisation in UK launches campaign to defend post study work visa – Times of India


With the UK government having commissioned the migration advisory committee (MAC) to undertake a study of the graduate route of post study work visas for international students; National Indian Students and Alumni Union UK, the oldest and largest body representing students and youth of Indian origin in the UK, has launched a campaign to defend this visa route.
The campaign called ‘fair visa fair chance’ has been kicked off even as the MAC report is due to be published in May 2024. The review includes a consideration of whether the graduate route is being abused, whether it is fit for purpose, who is using it and how; and whether it is undermining the integrity and quality of the UK higher education system.
Sanam Arora, the chair of Nisau, who is also a commissioner of the UK’s international higher education commission said when launching the campaign: “It is very sad that a mere few years on from the re-introduction of post study working in the UK, we are having to once again make the case to defend it. The graduate visa is a key requirement of Indian students, and a critical offer of the UK’s international higher education system. We campaigned for seven years to bring it back last time and will fight to protect this essential pathway again. Without the graduate route, university finances may collapse. The impact of this not just on international students but also on UK’s home students will be bad, given domestic students and the world-class research that happens in UK universities is heavily cross subsidised by international students. We have a duty to protect outcomes for all students and for the whole international higher education sector.”
The post-study work visa was relaunched in 2019 as a result of lobbying and advocacy from the higher education sector with Nisau having run a seven-year campaign. British Indian entrepreneur, Lord Karan Bilimoria who is co-chair of UK’s all party parliamentary group on international students and Chancellor of University of Birmingham, was the first to propose a post-study work visa for international students in 2007 when he tabled it in UK’s House of Lords.
The graduate route allows international students to stay in the UK for a period of two years after graduating. It is unsponsored, meaning graduates do not need a job offer to be able to stay on. Graduates can find employment or start their own business through this route.
“As a former international student from India myself, one of my proudest achievements in the 18 years I have been a member of the House was to have spearheaded the introduction of the two-year post graduate work visa for international students. The two-year graduate route was taken away by the government in 2012 and thankfully re-introduced a few years after. The ability to work for two years after graduation helps international students to earn money to help pay for their degrees and enable some to get valuable work experience as well as to continue to build the strong links with the United Kingdom. We are in a global race and have to offer post-graduation work opportunities that are attractive in competing with countries such as the United States of America, Canada, and Australia,” Lord Bilimoria said.
He added that the fear of the removal of the two-year post-graduation work visa is sending out unnecessary and damaging negative messages around the world, and universities are already seeing a huge decline in international students applications. “As a result we are unnecessarily shooting ourselves in the foot as a country, when international students contribute £42 billion to the UK economy and are one of our strongest elements of soft power with a quarter of world leaders today having been educated at UK universities. We must retain the two-year post-graduation work visa; any reduction would be hugely damaging to our universities, which are the best in the world along with the United States of America’s, a jewel in the crown of the United Kingdom,” Lord Bilimoria said.
As part of the campaign, Nisau will be presenting evidence to the MAC using its own research and experiences of 12 years of representing Indian students and alumni in the UK. The organisation has hosted a series of sessions on the topic of ‘making the UK the best destination for international students’. A significant portfolio of inputs were also gathered including from the ‘India UK Education Conference’ held in February 2024.


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