UK post-study work visa and decline in Tier 4 student numbers


Indira Gandhi was an Oxford student and first and only female Indian Prime Minister with Jacqueline Kennedy in India March 1962

US Embassy, New Delhi / Public Domain

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Comments by Sanwar Ali:

Due to the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic there are likely to be fewer international students wishing to study in Countries such as the UK, US, Australia, etc.  An analysis by London Economics for the University and College Union Universities suggests that there will be a £2.6 billion reduction in income to UK Universities due to the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. 

Therefore, anything that will make the UK more attractive to Tier 4 overseas students would be helpful.  Post Study work visas were very popular in the past.  This previous UK visa scheme was abolished in 2012.  Now to be reintroduced in 2021.

The Tier 2 visa and Sponsor Licence scheme is just too expensive and bureaucratic for many employers.  The new post-study work visa scheme will make it much easier for Tier 4 visa students.

During a recent webinar, senior stakeholders in the UK and Australia discussed commitments to student visa policy regarding post-study work (PSW), which will be clarified in the coming weeks.

Following the webinar, director of UK Universities International (UUKi), Vivienne Stern, confirmed that the UK post-study work visa programme, set to launch in the summer of 2021, is ‘progressing as planned’.

Speaking at the webinar, organised by Times Higher Education and SI-UK – where a number of questions were asked in relation to whether PSW may apply to students, especially if they’re starting courses online, Stern said: “Minsters have reconfirmed their commitment to the UK PSW visa programme.”

Ms Stern stated that the Home Office is ‘busy’, especially with its new, post-Brexit UK immigration system set to be rolled out on 1 January 2021, but said that the government still plans to launch post study work rights in the summer of 2021.

Recently, the government has been urged to fast-track the post-study work visa into law and extend it by six months in order for the UK to ‘maintain its competitive edge in the international student market.’

Representing 24 UK universities, the Russell Group is calling for continued student visa reform and a joint international marketing campaign to promote study in the UK.

Home Office factsheet on new Post-Study work visa

Speaking to The PIE News, Ms Stern said: “Details on the new Graduate Route are already available via a Home Office factsheet and ministers have repeatedly confirmed that students starting courses in academic year 2020/21 will qualify.”

However, the UUKi has urged the government to clarify the rules around PSW visas, outlined in its factsheet and published jointly with UKCISA and BUILA.

The government factsheet states: “Students who study part of their course online, and spend less than 11 months in the UK as a result, should not miss out on the Graduate Route.”

Australia post-study work rights

In Australia, according to Phil Honeywood of the International Education Association of Australia (IEAA) and who also sits on the country’s Global Reputation Taskforce, clarity on how post-study work rights are affected or not by a change in study ‘should come soon.’

Post-study work rights of two years in Australia are accessible for all graduates of undergraduate courses, with long-term extensions offered to those with a higher level degree.

During an AIEC webinar, Honeywood said that he was ‘keen for transparency concerning the details on students returning to Australia around post-study work rights and the component of online learning.’

He said: “I’m interested to find how online learning factors into a range of time lapse issues. We’re quietly confident that something will come out soon, bearing in mind that New Zealand, the UK and other countries have come out quickly with their visa flexibilities compared to us.”

Meanwhile, Australia’s Global Reputation Taskforce has issued a series of recommendations, including:

• Flexibility when determining the amount of time spent in Australia by students affected by travel restrictions if they wish to take up post-study work visas or apply for permanent residency.

• Immigration risk ratings for education providers are not affected by the inability of students to commence or complete study as a result of travel restrictions.

Canada post-study work rights

Canada acted fast to clarify that up to 50 percent of agreed study can take place online and that international students with a Canadian study visa are permitted to pursue post-study work rights once their course of study is finished.

In the UK, although the specifics of the PSW programme have not officially been published, greater flexibility for in-country, international student visa holders was announced in April amid the coronavirus – this has since been updated.

The updated flexibility includes greater freedom for institutions on attendance monitoring and for in-country international students whose visas were set to expire in May, they are now able to apply for further leave to remain in the UK, without having to leave the country.

New Zealand student visas

Similar flexibility for international students was also announced in New Zealand. Those with visas set to expire between 2 April and 9 July 2020 will be granted a visa extension, at no extra cost, valid until 25 September 2020.

Meanwhile, both New Zealand and Australia have indicated that once their borders reopen fully, international students will be able to enter each country as priority travellers.

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