Foreign students will now be able to stay and work in the United Kingdom for up to two years after graduating, a move that rips previous rules restricting stay for only a period of four months.
Former Prime Minister Theresa May’s government had instituted the controversial immigration policy in reaction to anti-immigration sentiments sweeping across Europe. But the policy is leading to decline in international enrollment and revenue.
The move which critics fear will deter interests in foreign students studying in the UK and mean loss of critical talents, stands in contrasts with the United States, Canada and New Zealand which allows international graduates the opportunity to work for three years after graduation.
The new post-study work visa will come into effect for students starting courses at undergraduate level or above in 2020, and is open to graduates in any subject and for jobs in any sector.
The government said students will need to have successfully completed a degree from a trusted UK university or higher education provider with a track record of upholding immigration checks.
This news was welcomed by the higher education sector where over 460,000 students come yearly to study in British Universities.
Alistair Jarvis, the chief executive of Universities UK told a local newspaper that international students bring significant positive social outcomes to the UK and make about £26 billion in economic contributions, but the lack of post-study work opportunities in the UK has put them at a competitive disadvantage in attracting those students.
“Not only will a wide range of employers now benefit from access to talented graduates from around the world, these students hold lifelong links with the UK with a recent study showing 77 per cent of graduates want to retain business links with us and 88 per cent would return for tourism,” Jarvis told reporters.
The UK is the second most popular study destination worldwide after the United States. As of 2017/18, according to official international enrolment statistics, 458,520 international students were attending university in the UK, based on the compilation of study in UK.
It said as of 2017/18, international enrollment at UK universities increased by 3.6% compared to the previous year. New enrollees share 54% (247,685) of the total international students in UK.
During the 2017/18 academic year, 10,540 Nigerian students were enrolled in UK universities, the highest in Africa and one of the top ten supply for British Universities.
But tougher immigration policies have contributed to lower enrollment figures. Data from the websites showed that during the 2014/15 academic year, there were 17,920 Nigerian students attending university in the UK. Three years later, the number has fallen by almost 40 percent to 10,540 students from Nigeria.
In a joint statement, the Education Secretary Gavin Williamson and the Home Secretary Priti Patel said the government intends to increase the number of international students coming to the UK by 30 per cent by 2030.
“International students are vital for our country and provide some of the most crucial skills we need across our workforce,” they said. “They boost our economy and are a testament to our openness to talent.”