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Post-study leave period to be increased as Government announces new strategy to attract more international students to the UK


International students to be able to work for up to to 6 months after degree or 1 year for PhD students

Date of Publication:
20 March 2019

Post-study leave period to be increased as Government announces new strategy to attract more international students to the UK

20 March 2019

On Saturday, the Department for Education and the Department for International Trade published details of a new cross-government strategy to increase the number of foreign students studying in the UK.

You can read the 48-page policy paper here.

According to the Department for Education, the UK currently hosts around 460,000 international higher education students, generating approximately £20 billion per year.

The paper states: "UK education is punching above its weight, but below its potential. The sector tells us that they face a range of issues in increasing their international footprint. Some businesses may believe they are not suited to overseas sales, or lack the confidence or knowledge in how to pursue them. They may not have the information they need about how to tackle policy or regulatory barriers to access overseas markets, how to seek and get finance, or even where to go for help.

"This strategy is about meeting these challenges. At its heart is an ambition to increase the value of our education exports to £35 billion per year, and to increase the number of international higher education students hosted in the UK to 600,000 per year, both by 2030."

Under the new strategy, the post-study leave period will be extended from four to six months for undergraduate and masters students, and a year for all PhD students.

The policy paper says: "We will increase the post-study leave period to 6 months for all masters and undergraduate students at institutions with degree awarding powers, and to 12 months for all doctoral students. During the post-study leave period, students will have unrestricted access to work. We will also make it easier for international higher education students to move into skilled work in the UK should they wish to do so, by allowing them to apply for a skilled work visa 3 months before their course ends, or to switch into skilled work from their home country for 2 years after graduation."

The Tier 4 visa application process will also be improved to encourage more students to study in the UK: "The UK government will keep the visa application process for international students under review, with the aim of improving the customer journey both for students and their sponsoring institutions. This will include reviewing processes for conducting interviews to ensure that these are appropriately focussed and to minimise any inconvenience for applicants."

Education Secretary Damian Hinds said: "The UK's education system is world-leading and its reputation is the envy of many countries around the globe … There is no limit to our potential and this strategy will help cement our status as a world-leader in education, while creating real benefits for the country and students across the globe."

Universities UK welcomed the new strategy.

Professor Dame Janet Beer, President of Universities UK, said: "I strongly welcome the publication of this strategy as a signal of a change in direction. I particularly welcome the ambitious target to grow the number of international students to 600,000 by 2030 which sends a strong message of welcome."

She added: "We particularly welcome steps to improve the visa regime, including the extension of opportunities for our graduates to work in the UK once they graduate, to six months for undergraduates and masters' students, and a year for those who undertake PhDs. We would like the government to go further and extend this opportunity to at least two years and we will continue to urge them on this point."