“Fair Visa, Fair Chance” Campaign Begun By Indian Student Group In UK

“We campaigned for seven years to bring it back last time”, says Sanam Arora. (Representational)

London:

One of the UK’s prominent Indian student representative organisations on Thursday began a new “Fair Visa, Fair Chance” campaign in favour of the post-study Graduate Route visa, which has proved hugely popular with students from India since its launch around three years ago.

The National Indian Students and Alumni Union (NISAU) UK, which had originally campaigned for the visa that allows international graduates the chance to gain work experience for two years after their degree, fears the ongoing review of the route would reverse the progress made.

The independent Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) has been commissioned to review the Graduate Route visa by UK Home Secretary James Cleverly to ensure it is “fit for purpose” and is expected to report by next month.

“The ability to work for two years post-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 strong links with the UK,” said Lord Karan Bilimoria, Co-Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on International Students and patron of NISAU UK.

“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. 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,” he said.

He also warned that Britain would be “shooting itself in the foot” if the Graduate Route was curtailed given that international students contribute GBP 42 billion to the UK economy.

Since its relaunch for the 2020-21 cohort of international students, the Home Office says a total of 213,250 visas have been granted under the route – with Indians consistently dominating as the largest group of students granted leave to remain with 43 per cent of grants last year.

“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,” said Sanam Arora, NISAU UK chair and Commissioner of the UK’s International Higher Education Commission.

“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,” she said.

NISAU UK has been invited to present evidence to MAC and it plans to share its own research and learnings from the annual India-UK Achievers Honours programme, which celebrates high-achieving Indian graduates from the UK who have made exceptional contributions to their respective fields and society at large.

Indian students have already begun to show signs of being turned off from applying to British universities, with the latest Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) figures revealing a four per cent drop in applications from India.

However, the Home Office pointed to MAC analysis which revealed that the number of international post-graduate students attending institutions with the lowest UCAS entry requirements has increased by over 250 per cent between 2018 and 2022, bringing its mantra of attracting the “brightest and the best” into question.

In its annual report finalised before the review was announced in Parliament at the end of last year, MAC said: “More fundamentally, we suggest that the government needs to decide what the purpose of the Graduate Route is. If its primary objective is to enhance the offer to international students who choose to study in the UK and so increase the number of international students in higher education, then it appears to have been a resounding success.”

“If the objective is to attract talented students who will subsequently work in high-skilled graduate jobs, then we are sceptical that it adds much to the Skilled Worker route which was already available to switch into after graduation, and we expect that at least a significant fraction of the Graduate Route will comprise low-wage workers,” it said.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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