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It is estimated that the economic impact of International students is circa £25 billion that includes spending on or off the campus. The spending of ~International Students is in addition to UK students and in addition to Tuition fees, International Students spend on a wide range of goods, services and activities.

The UK is currently the second most popular place to study after America and attracts a substantial number of overseas students.  In 2014-15, International Students made up 19% of UKs students. In addition to their own spending, they attract visitors who also spend in UK hotels, restaurants and contribute positively to the economy. Spending by International Students supports 206, 600 full time jobs in the UK.

On 11 September 2018, the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) released it’s report on the Impact of International Students in the UK and although the findings were positive, the outcome did not recommend a new post-study work visa for International Students.  Many expressed their disappointment with the recommendations and felt that an opportunity had been missed to bring the UK in-line with developments in countries such as the US, Canada and Australia.

It was recognised that International students have a positive impact on the economy including cross-subsidising domestic students. Opinion Polls also demonstrated that the public had a favourable opinion of International students.  MAC have however recommended some changes to the current system instead of supporting the move to new post-study work visas.

The report recommends:

  • To retain no cap on the numbers of international students.
  • Government and the sector should continue to work together to grow the number of international students.
  • International students should not be removed from the net migration statistics.
  • Rules of work while studying and dependant rights should remain unchanged.
  • Widening of the window in which applications for switches from Tier 4 to Tier 2 can be made.
  • Post-study leave period extended to six months for Master’s students, though with a more thorough review of whether this is appropriate.
  • The 12 months leave to remain after PhD completion be incorporated into the original visa duration, subject to meeting progress requirements and course completion, for eligibility to remain in the UK after course end date. This would replace the existing Doctoral Extension scheme that allows the same rights but has to be applied for with associated visa costs.
  • Previous Tier 4 students, who passed their Level 6 (or above) qualification in the UK, should be entitled to a two-year period from course completion during which they can apply out-of-country for a Tier 2 visa, under the same rules as current in-country Tier 4 to Tier 2 switches.

Being able to study in a skilled job after graduation is an important part of the package for prospective students when choosing where to study. A better post-study visa would increase demand of International Students and provide UK employers the opportunity of being able to talent-spot graduates from around the world.

UK universities have expressed their disappointment with the report as MAC have confirmed that substantive contribution of International Students to the UK, yet they feel that without substantive policy change that supports post-study visas, it will not be possible to retain the market share of International Students and the UK will lose International Students to other countries where a more favourable package is being offered.

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