UK Says Graduate Route Scheme Safe For Now, Will Be Kept "Under Review"

The UK's Graduate Route scheme popular with Indian students as a post-study work offer is safe for now as the government announced on Thursday that it will be kept "under review".

May 23, 2024 - 23:15
UK Says Graduate Route Scheme Safe For Now, Will Be Kept "Under Review"

The UK's Graduate Route scheme popular with Indian students as a post-study work offer is safe for now as the government announced on Thursday that it will be kept "under review", as it set out proposals to crack down on student visas to ensure they aren't used as a "gateway to immigration".

The measures followed the Office for National Statistics (ONS) revealing a 10 per cent fall in net migration, welcomed by British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on the first official day of his campaign for a general election now set for July 4. Curbing migration, legal and illegal, is among the British Indian leader's top priorities as he makes his case to the electorate.

"Since I became Prime Minister, net migration has fallen by 10 per cent. The plan is working. Let's stick with it," he said.

The Home Office pointed out that the ONS figures released this week do not take into account stricter visa rules on family dependents that were enforced earlier this year, pointing to a 25 per cent drop in visa applications since then.

Under further tougher measures, it said it will regulate the recruitment of international students, "cracking down on rogue recruitment agents" who encourage people to apply to British universities by mandating universities to sign up to a "stringent framework for agents'. Tougher compliance standards for institutions recruiting students from overseas will be introduced under which universities that accept international students who then fail to pass visa checks, enroll or complete their courses, will risk losing their sponsor licence.

"Applications are already falling sharply...but we must go further to make sure our immigration routes aren't abused. That's why we are cracking down on rogue international agents and, building on work across government, to ensure international students are coming here to study, not work," said UK Home Secretary James Cleverly.

With reference to the Graduate Route, the Home Office took note of the independent Migration Advisory Committee's (MAC) warning in a rapid review last week that rogue recruitment agents pose a threat to the system, with poor practices exploiting student and graduate visa holders who are "mis-sold" UK higher education.

Since migrants on the student route transition directly to the Graduate Route, immediate action is necessary, the Home Office said, adding that it also remains concerned that the scheme is not attracting the "highest earners who contribute to our economy" after an analysis from the tax department.

"New proposals will further crack down on student visas, ensuring only genuine students can come to the UK; [Graduate] Route will be kept under review," the Home Office added.

This implies that the route is safe at least until the election, when a newly elected government will take a decision on its future course.

"We are absolutely delighted and very relieved that the UK government has taken the right decision to keep the Graduate Route as this is critical for Indian students. We are very pleased also that the focus will instead be on regulating agents," said Sanam Arora, Chair of the National Indian Students and Alumni Union (NISAU) UK, which has been lobbying in favour of the post-study visa.

Among other measures planned, financial maintenance requirements will be raised, so international students will have to prove their financial self-sufficiency. The government said it is already reviewing English language assessments with the objective of standardising independent assessments, ensuring all international students are equipped with the skills to understand their course materials - or they shouldn't expect a place at a UK university.

Restrictions on remote delivery will also ensure all overseas students are predominantly undertaking face-to-face courses, the Home Office said.

The latest set of proposals form part of the Sunak-led government's overall plan to cut legal migration, which it says would mean 300,000 who arrived last year would be unable to do so under its tougher new rules.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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