Rishi Sunak backs radical reform of graduate visas

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Rishi Sunak has abandoned plans to radically reform the graduate visa route, following a cabinet backlash and warnings that driving away foreign students could hit growth and weakening British universities.

The Prime Minister is set to announce plans to prevent abuse of the visa system but will confirm that the postgraduate route, which allows international students to stay for two years after completing their studies, should still be open.

Jeremy Hunt, the prime minister, Lord David Cameron, the foreign secretary, and James Cleverly, the home secretary, were among those who expressed skepticism about any serious attempt to cut legal migration by How to target foreign students.

Senior government officials have told the Financial Times that ministers are expected to deliver on a more modest reform package that was the subject of last-minute Whitehall discussions on Tuesday.

Among the measures currently proposed by Cleverly, with the support of Sunak, is a tightening of agency who market British degree courses abroad by punishing schools that do not deliver the kind of students they promised.

According to a government official briefed on the plan, a mandatory English test will be introduced for students who want to stay after finishing their studies.

An ally of Sunak said there were “pieces that need to be cut” from the graduate visa scheme but confirmed it would remain in place.

A separate proposal would see ministers tackle it once and for all university The plan would allow students to undertake their entire studies abroad only to benefit from work opportunities in the UK afterward, according to another person familiar with the plan.

“What has been put forward is something that unites all the competing parties,” an official said. Sunak is expected to say he reserves the right to take tougher action in future if the data supports it.

George Osborne, the former chancellor, on Tuesday criticized any move towards a more radical plan to reduce the number of foreign students.

He said at an event at the University of Manchester: “It seems absolutely ridiculous to me that we would ruin one of the real success stories of the British economy, which is the higher education sector. learn”.

Hunt also warned of the possible harm to growth of cuts in foreign student numbers. He noted that the government had moved to restrict the rights of dependents to come to the UK with masters students.

“I think we will see a reduction in migration flows as those decisions are made, but that doesn’t mean we won’t continue to support Sustainable growth on the number of international students coming to the UK,” Hunt said last week.

Cleverly also supports only limited reform, according to government insiders. He commissioned a report from the Migration Advisory Committee, the advisory body which earlier this month found the existing visa scheme. has not been abused as a back door entry into the UK.

Those briefed on Number 10’s thinking said Sunak had considered a range of options, such as cutting the two-year graduate visa period or excluding courses with certain minimum fees.

“Finally, there was discussion about cutting out the graduation pathway altogether,” said one person involved in the discussion.

Sunak is also looking at whether the scheme could be curtailed in some way so that it is only available to the “brightest and best” students, by limiting it to the Group’s top universities Russell or courses with higher tuition fees.

The prime minister has been under pressure from the right wing of his Conservative party to cut legal migration to the UK ahead of a general election scheduled for later this year.

The decision to maintain the graduate visa scheme in its current form is expected to be announced on Thursday, when quarterly net migration figures from the Office for National Statistics are published.

That will follow monthly migration data published by the Home Office on Wednesday, which is expected to show a significant fall in the number of people granted visas to work in the UK, including those graduted student.

A government spokesman said: “We are committed to attracting the brightest and best to study at our world-class universities, while taking the necessary steps to prevent Stop abuse of our immigration system. We are currently reviewing the conclusions of the Migration Advisory Committee and will respond at the appropriate time.”


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