Virginia, US

Sep 17 2018

Migration Advisory Committee Publishes Report on International Students

United Kingdom

The situation

The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC)’s report on the impact of international students in the United Kingdom focuses on the UK government’s efforts to attract top students, including suggested revisions in post-study work rights.

A closer look

The main findings of the report are discussed below.

  • General conclusion. The MAC reported that international students provide a huge benefit to the UK economy by way of payments through tuition fees and through expenditure in local areas.
  • International comparison. The Higher Education Sector (the sector) is concerned about the competitiveness of the United Kingdom’s current offering to international students. Latest statistics place the United Kingdom as the second most popular destination for international students behind the United States, providing similar work rights when compared with the United Kingdom’s main competitors. Despite this, the United Kingdom has been identified as offering less generous post-study work rights.
  • Impact on UK students. International students in the United Kingdom pay higher tuition fees than UK/EU students, which results in benefits through subsidising research and education fees for UK/EU students.
  • Impacts after study. The report found that most international students leave the United Kingdom before their visa expires. Additionally, the number of students granted a visa extension for work purposes following the completion of their studies has significantly reduced since the removal of the Tier 1 Post Study Work category.

 

Policy recommendations

The below are the MAC’s key policy recommendations:

  • The MAC agrees with the sector that no cap should be placed on students but suggests international students should remain counted within the United Kingdom’s net migration statistics;
  • The government should continue to work with the sector to grow the number of international students;
  • Work rights during study should remain unchanged/consistent with other countries;
  • There should be more time for students to switch from Tier 4 to Tier 2 to allow sponsors to continue to attract top candidates;
  • Post-study Leave to Remain should be extended to six months for master’s students;
  • Post-study Leave to Remain should be extended to 12 months after completion of a PhD (like the current Doctorate Extension Scheme);
  • Students passing a course of study at Regulated Qualifications Framework Level 6 or above should be provided with a two-year period to apply out-of-country for a Tier 2 visa (this option is currently not available).

 

Impact of Brexit

The report recommends that post-Brexit, EU nationals in the United Kingdom should not be required to obtain a visa, whereas any longer periods might require a student visa, although this is still an area of uncertainty.

The report confirms that institutions are currently free to set their own tuition fees, which the MAC feels is appropriate. It is likely that this will continue even after Brexit.

In terms of post-study work, the MAC recommends that EU students should be brought within the system in place for non-EU students under Tier 4.

Background

Although there is no immediate impact on employers and foreign nationals in the United Kingdom, the MAC’s findings will have a tangible impact on the way the UK immigration system is shaped as it advises the UK government in its policy-making decisions.

Looking ahead

The UK government will now assess the report and decide upon any changes required to current policy.

This alert is for informational purposes only. If you have any questions, please contact the global immigration professional with whom you work at Fragomen or send an email to londoninfo@fragomen.com.