NISAU UK launches Grad route campaign

Published 09/04/2024

The National Indian Students and Alumni Union has launched the Fair Visa, Fair Chance campaign in an attempt to defend the UK Graduate Route visa.

The move by NISAU, one of the most prominent Indian student representative organisations in the UK, comes as home secretary James Cleverly announced plans recently to review the Graduate Route in the coming months.

The Migration Advisory Committee has been tasked with reporting back the findings of its review of the post-study work visa by May 14.

“We must prevent abuse of this route, protect the integrity and quality of our higher education, and ensure it works in our best interests. I want to ensure that applications through this route are not being driven by a desire for immigration over education. The MAC will report back to me in May,” noted Cleverly in a comment piece on March 11.

NISAU has been invited to present its evidence to the MAC, and it plans to share its research and learnings from the annual India-UK Achievers Honours, rewarding Indian graduates in the UK who have made exceptional contributions to their respective fields.

“It is very sad that a mere few years on from the re-introduction of post-study working in the UK, we are having to once again make the case to defend it.

“The Graduate visa is a key requirement of Indian students and a critical offer of the UK’s international higher education system,” said Sanam Arora, NISAU UK chair and commissioner of the UK’s International Higher Education Commission.

“We campaigned for seven years to bring it back last time and will fight to protect this essential pathway again. Without the Graduate Route, university finances may collapse.

“The impact of this not just on international students but also on UK’s home students will be bad, given domestic students and the world-class research that happens in UK universities is heavily cross-subsidised by international students,” she added.

As part of its case, NISAU also conducted an online session on April 4 – the day the campaign was launched – wherein former and current students contributed their viewpoints regarding the significance of the graduate route.

“We will be presenting evidence to the Migration Advisory Committee, and we would love for you to provide further inputs into the process,” the organisation said in a LinkedIn post.

The Graduate Route enables UK-based international students to stay in the country for two years after post-graduation, and for up to three if they have obtained a Ph.D. It formed a central part of the 2019 strategy but was introduced in 2021.

“The impact of this not just on international students but also on UK’s home students will be bad”

Cleverly said in Parliament in December – when the review was announced – that international students were a part of the “robust action” the government had outlined through a five-point immigration plan, as ONS data indicated a net migration of 672,000 in the year ending June 2023.

According to the letter written by Cleverly to Brian Bell, chair of the MAC, the review will include various factors such as abuse of the Graduate Route, which university a student graduated from, demographics, as well as whether students accessing the route are contributing to the UK economy.

Data from the committee’s annual report also indicated that the percentage of international postgraduate students attending institutions with the lowest UCAS tariff quartiles increased by over 250% between 2018 and 2022, but the proportion of international students studying at lower tariff institutions only increased to 32% in 2021/22.

Concerns remain over the accelerated timeline, with some industry stakeholders saying the move is political amid reports of a general election expected in the second half of 2024.

Indian students, who made up the second largest group of international students in the UK in 2021-22, are already looking at other study destinations, with the latest UCAS data revealing drops in undergraduate applications to the UK from India.

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