Government Report Warns Against Further Restrictions on International Students in UK
International Students

A government-commissioned report has cautioned against imposing further restrictions on the graduate route, which allows international students to work in Britain for up to two years after graduation. The report warned that such measures could lead to job losses, course closures, and even the potential failure of some educational institutions.

The Migration Advisory Committee, an independent body that advises the government, revealed that the number of international postgraduate students paying deposits to study at British universities in September 2024 has dropped by a staggering 63% compared to the previous year. This decline follows the government’s decision to impose restrictions on education visas.

The report emphasized that additional curbs on the graduate route would have severe consequences, including job losses, course shutdowns, and the risk of some institutions collapsing financially. Britain is renowned for its world-class universities, such as Oxford, Cambridge, and Imperial College London, which are highly sought after by international students. Business leaders argue that these institutions boost innovation, creativity, and serve as a form of soft power, as many world leaders have studied at British colleges.

The government commissioned the review amid concerns that the graduate visa route was being exploited. Some British politicians have complained about instances where students apply for visas and then claim asylum or overstay their visas.

Esther McVey, a minister in Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s cabinet, claimed on Monday that some British universities were “selling immigration to international students rather than education.” A spokesman for Sunak stated that the government would consider the report and respond, highlighting concerns about the scheme, noting that more than 40% of international students using the route were either not working or earning below £15,000 ($18,834) a year after graduation.

However, the Migration Advisory Committee found no evidence of widespread abuse specifically related to the graduate route. Students from four countries – India, Nigeria, China, and Pakistan – account for 70% of graduate visas issued.

The Confederation of British Industry (CBI), a business lobby group, emphasized that British universities are one of the country’s biggest export successes. With the Migration Advisory Committee stating that the system is not being abused, the CBI called for an end to the “damaging speculation” and urged the government to secure the future of the graduate route.

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