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Graduate visa route should remain, report finds, after home secretary raised immigration concerns

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Published Time: 14.05.2024 - 12:40:32 Modified Time: 14.05.2024 - 12:40:32

James Cleverly commissioned an emergency report into the graduate visa route over concerns it was being abused for immigration purposes

James Cleverly commissioned an emergency report into the graduate visa route over concerns it was being abused for immigration purposes.

Political reporter @alixculbertson

Tuesday 14 May 2024 10:19, UK

The graduate visa route should remain as it is key to funding British universities and is "not undermining the quality and integrity" of higher education, a new report has said.

The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) looked at whether the visa was being abused and if it was not being "driven more by a desire for immigration" after Home Secretary James Cleverly requested an emergency review in March.

A graduate visa permits overseas students to stay in the UK for up to three years after completing a university course in the UK. Partners and children can also apply as dependents.

Former immigration minister Robert Jenrick published a report last week calling for the graduate visa to be abolished, claiming it "allowed people to come and work in the gig economy and on very low wages".

University and industry leaders had voiced fears that the route, introduced in 2021, could be axed or curtailed if the report had been negative, with universities reporting a steep drop in international students applying over fears of restrictions being introduced.

But the committee, made up of five university professors and a Home Office representative, said they found "no evidence of widespread abuse" of the graduate route.

"The risks of abuse are relatively low due to the limited number of conditions the route imposes," the report said.

It also found the visa route is helping universities to expand the range of courses offered while making up for financial losses from domestic students and research, and is "supporting the government's international educational strategy".

The report said 114,000 graduate route visas were granted for applicants in 2023, with a further 30,000 for dependents.

It said students from India, Nigeria, China and Pakistan account for 70% of all graduate visas, with India accounting for more than 40%.


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MAC chair and leading labour economist Professor Brian Bell, the head of economics at King's College London, said: "Our review recommends the graduate route should remain as it is, and is not undermining the quality and integrity of the UK's higher education system.

"The graduate route is a key part of the offer that we make to international students to come and study in the UK.

"The fees that these students pay help universities to cover the losses they make in teaching British students and doing research.

"Without those students, many universities would need to shrink and less research would be done.

"This highlights the complex interaction between immigration policy and higher education policy."

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The report found most people on the graduate route had completed postgraduate courses, with the highest growth in the visa from non-Russell Group universities' postgraduate coursesaccounting for 66% of all graduate visas.

Since 2021, the proportion of main applicants aged over 25 has increased by 15 percentage points to 54% in 2023.

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