Let foreign students work in the UK for two years after graduation, says former universities minister

Posted On: 
26th April 2019

Foreign students should be allowed to work in the UK for up to two years after they graduate, according to a former universities minister.

Overseas students are currently only allowed to work in the UK for four months after they graduate.
PA Images

Jo Johnson said Britain was missing out on billions of pounds, and losing top talent to other countries, by limiting their post-study stay to just four months.

He and Labour MP Paul Blomfield are tabling an amendment to the Immigration Bill which would see a relaxation of the current rules.

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The proposed change would also ensure that the number of overseas students cannot be capped in order to comply with the Government's aim of limiting net migration to less than 100,000 a year.

Foreign students used to be allowed to work in the UK for up to two years, but that was slashed to four months in 2012, when Theresa May was still Home Secretary.

Mrs May has also consistently refused to remove overseas students from the net migration target, despite efforts by senior ministers to force her to dump the policy.

Mr Johnson - who quit the Government over Brexit last year - said: “We have no chance of meeting education export targets unless we adopt a smarter approach to students. If we are serious about Global Britain, we must recognise that international students bring huge benefits to our universities, our local economies and our soft power.”

He added: “The difference students make to long-term net migration is small. The difference our new clause will make to our universities, to local economies and to Britain’s global reach will be highly significant. As we re-shape our immigration policy for the future, we must not miss this opportunity.”

Competing nations such as America, Canada and Australia allow overseas students to stay in their countries for up to four years after graduation.

Paul Blomfield said: “We need a fresh approach to post-study work, which has been severely restricted since 2012 on the back of shoddy and flawed evidence.

“Students value post-study work highly and will invest their time, money and human capital elsewhere if it is not available, which is why our competitors have put in place sensible post-study work regimes. Employers too welcome the contribution of these talented graduates.”

The US, Canada and New Zealand offer international graduates the opportunity to work for up to three years after graduation, and Australia for up to four years.

Mr Blomfield said: “Slashed in 2012 to just 4 months, from two years, the UK’s post-study work offer is simply not competitive. While the International Education Strategy will increase this to 6 months, that’s not nearly enough to make the difference we need.”

The pair's bid has the backing of nine Commons committee chairs, as well as Shadow Education Secretary Angela Rayner and former Tory ministers Justine Greening, David Davis, Andrew Mitchell and Priti Patel.