In what is expected to be good news for Indian students studying in the UK, British Home Secretary Sajid Javid has called for an end to Prime Minister Theresa May’s stringent curbs on foreign students who want to stay on in the country to work after they graduate from UK universities.
Javid said that May’s decision, through which foreign students could work for not more than six months in the UK after completing their studies, undermines Britain’s universities and is harming the country’s search for the best global talent.
Foreign students were allowed to stay and work in the UK for two years after graduation until 2012, when May, the then Home Secretary, began her crackdown on immigration.
The time that students can work after graduating was cut to four months, although the British government this year realised that the new regime was fraught with problems and agreed to raise the limit to six months.
As a result of this restrictive visa regime, the number of Indian students coming to UK universities underwent a dramatic decline and almost halved, from just under 30,000 in 2011-12 to just over 16,000 in 2016-17.
“It makes no sense to send some of the brightest and most enterprising people in the world straight home after their time here,” Javid, a Pakistan-origin minister and a contender for the Conservative Party leadership, wrote in an opinion article for the London-based newspaper, Financial Times.
His decision to back a move to liberalise the student visa regime, led by former Tory universities minister Jo Johnson, is a signal that the government’s crackdown on immigration will be eased once May leaves Downing Street.
Johnson’s amendment is supported by Opposition parties and Tory MPs including his brother Boris Johnson, the frontrunner in the Tory leadership election, as well as former chancellor Ken Clarke. Whoever succeeds May as prime minister is therefore likely to be forced to accept the amendment, if they want to proceed with Brexit legislation to end the free movement of EU citizens.
Johnson told FT the US and Canada allowed students to work for three years after graduation. “It’s high time we recognised the value international students bring to the country…,” FT quoted Johnson as saying.