Aston backs call for new work visas for international students

international students

4 September 2018

  • Top Birmingham university supports calls for new visa allowing international students to secure skilled work for a period after graduation
  • International students generated a net impact of £1.95 billion in the West Midlands
  • New visa would ‘send out a strong message that Birmingham is a welcoming city’.

Aston University is backing calls for a new visa to allow qualified international students to work in skilled jobs for a period after graduation. 

The visa would allow a wider range of employers to benefit from access to skilled graduates from around the world, making Birmingham more attractive destination for international students, while supporting the local economy and businesses.

According to Universities UK, the move would allow the UK to compete with other popular destinations such as Australia and Canada who have more welcoming student visa policies.

Recent studies have shown the significant contribution international students make to towns and cities across Britain, including Birmingham, making an annual contribution to the UK economy of more than £20 billion, including £1.95 billion in the West Midlands. (HEPI report).

Saskia Loer Hansen, Pro-Vice-Chancellor International at Aston University, said: “Aston University strongly supports this proposal which we believe is an essential step to make Birmingham, and the whole of the UK, more attractive to the international students and graduates who make such a vital contribution to our community and economy. 

“In an increasingly globalised world, we know also that these students and graduates bring not only investment, but skills and perspectives which are valued by UK students and local employers. Sending out a strong message that Birmingham is a welcoming city, which is open to global talent, makes sense for everyone.”

Under the new visa proposal, universities would be able to sponsor graduates to search for and gain work experience in the UK for up to two years. This would be on a more flexible basis than currently permitted, without restrictions on job level or salary, and without an employer sponsorship requirement. This would encourage international graduates to live and work in cities where average wages are lower than London, but where their skills and continued contribution to the local economy makes a real difference. 


Notes to the editor

1.         Under this proposed visa, all higher education institutions registered as Tier 4 sponsors would be able to sponsor their graduates to search for and gain work experience in the UK for up to two years on a more flexible basis than currently permitted by the Tier 2 visa, without restrictions on job level or salary, and without an employer sponsorship requirement. Universities would have the flexibility to manage the licence for the new visa system separately from their Tier 4 licence

2.         Currently, students must find a job with a salary of at least £20,800 at an employer with a Tier 2 sponsor licence within four months of completing their course, or find sponsorship as an entrepreneur. PhD students are separately able to stay for up to 12 months following completion of their degree. This new, proposed visa would give international graduates a longer period to search for a Tier 2 eligible role.

3.         Australia, Canada, the US and New Zealand all offer international graduates the opportunity to stay and work for at least a year following graduation. The US and Canada offers up to three years and Australia up to four years, depending on the subject and qualification studied and length of original degree; New Zealand has recently announced changes which will allow graduates to stay for up to three years. In all four countries, this includes periods of job searching and there are no restrictions on the types of employers graduates can work for.

4.         In 2011, under the previous Tier 1 Post Study Work visa, the numbers of students transferring into work visas was 46,875. Following the 2012 changes, that that fell in 2013 to just 6,238. We would expect similar proportions of students to want to stay and transfer into this visa were they to have the opportunity to do so. In 2010-11 there were 134,520 non-EU students who qualified, so around 35% of them chose to use Tier 1 or Tier 2 to transfer into work. If we use the 2016-17 data (the latest we have) to model what could happen with the new visa, we’d expect around 54,000 (35% of non-EU graduates in that year) to take up the opportunity.

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·         Aston University campus pictures

About Aston University

Founded in 1895 and a University since 1966, Aston is a long established university led by its three main beneficiaries – students, business and the professions, and our region and society. Aston University is located in Birmingham and at the heart of a vibrant city and the campus houses all the university’s academic, social and accommodation facilities for our students.  Professor Alec Cameron is the Vice Chancellor & Chief Executive.

Aston has been a leading university for graduate employment success for over 25 years and our students do extremely well in securing top jobs and careers.  Our strong relationships with industry partners mean we understand the needs of employers, which is why we are also ranked in the top 20 for graduate employability.

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