UK High Potential Individual visa sparks controversy

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The UK’s much anticipated High Potential Individual (HPI) visa, set to launch on 30 May, has sparked huge controversy after excluding African universities from a global universities list used to select those eligible for High Potential Individual visas. Critics have voiced their concerns that graduates of African universities will not be eligible for HPI visas.


The new HPI route is a short-term UK work visa exclusively available to graduates with a degree from a so-called top university who have the potential to contribute to the UK workforce. It aims to attract high skilled overseas talent and allows graduates to come to the UK without a job offer.

Individuals can apply for a HPI visa if they have graduated from an eligible university on the UK’s global universities list in the five years immediately before their application. 


Two-year work visa

In a recent statement, UK Immigration Minister, Kevin Foster, said: “Those granted will be given a two-year work visa (three-year for those with a PhD) and will be permitted to move into other long-term employment routes, subject to meeting the eligibility requirements.”

The list released by the government contains 37 universities for the last graduation year, featuring top higher education institutions in:

  • Australia

  • Canada

  • China 

  • France 

  • Germany

  • Hong Kong

  • Japan

  • Singapore

  • Sweden 

  • Switzerland 

  • USA 

However, there has been an outcry amid the exclusion of African universities and those of other countries.


Unfair to African graduates

Those in the education sector were scathing of the list. Secretary general of the Association of African Universities (AAU), Professor Olusola Oyewole, told The Mail and The Guardian: “I believe Britain is unfair to African graduates, using the ranking of universities as a criterion for engagements.”

“The UK is wrong to assume that graduates from high-ranking universities are more skilled than graduates from Africa,” Professor Oyewole added.

The AAU secretary general went on to blast the notion that poor ranking African universities means inferior graduates. He said that the UK’s global universities list is “only a reflection of the funding and support given to the institutions on the African continent.”

Professor Oyewole claimed that world ranking indices have always favoured long-established universities, which immediately puts African universities on the back foot because they are relatively new by comparison.

He argued that with the right funding, facilities and learning environments, African graduates could be resilient, resourceful and highly innovative.


Funding a major issue

The Vice-Chancellor of Ahman Pategi University in Patigi, Nigeria, Professor Mahfouz Adedimeji, said that the HPI visa eligibility criteria would be fairer if the universities featured the top 10 higher education institutions on each continent. “The UK’s new work visa route is skewed against African universities,” Professor Adedimeji said.

Many government-owned African universities reportedly suffer from poor funding, which results in very low-quality research outputs and a lack of infrastructure.


Italy blasts HPI visa list

African universities are not the only ones to criticise the UK government’s HPI visa universities list. Universities in Italy are reportedly disappointed to have not been included. Universities and Research Minister, Cristina Messa, said: “I’m disappointed that graduates of Italian universities were left out of the HPI route.”

“They’re losing a big slice of good graduates, who would provide as many high skills…it’s their loss.”

However, it’s understood that Italy will petition the UK government to alter its HPI visa universities list to include Italian universities. can help with Sponsor Licences

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