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Relief for Indian students as UK PM Rishi Sunak to abandon plans to cut Graduate Route visas

A report by the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC), submitted on May 14, revealed the substantial dependence of UK universities on international students, particularly from India

Written by  Jasleen Kaur -- May 22nd 2024 04:04 PM
Relief for Indian students as UK PM Rishi Sunak to abandon plans to cut Graduate Route visas

Relief for Indian students as UK PM Rishi Sunak to abandon plans to cut Graduate Route visas

PTC Web Desk: UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has decided to abandon plans to significantly reduce Graduate Route visas, a decision that has been met with relief, particularly among Indian students, after encountering substantial opposition from his Cabinet. The Graduate Route visa scheme is highly favoured by international students, allowing them to work in the UK for up to two years post-graduation.

Initially, Rishi Sunak was considering modifications to limit these visas to only the “best and the brightest” in an effort to reduce migration numbers.


However, UK Prime Minister Sunak's Cabinet colleagues, including prominent figures such as Foreign Secretary David Cameron, voiced concerns about the potential negative impacts of such restrictions. They highlighted that curbing the Graduate Route visas could threaten the financial stability of British universities and harm the UK economy. Universities heavily rely on the tuition fees paid by international students, and a significant reduction in these numbers could lead to severe financial repercussions.

A report by the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC), submitted on May 14, revealed the substantial dependence of UK universities on international students, particularly from India. The MAC report showed that the top five nationalities account for nearly 75% of all Graduate Route visas, with Indian students constituting over 40%. This proportion is notably higher compared to their share of student visas, which stands at 26%.

In 2023 alone, 1,14,000 Graduate Route visas were granted to main applicants, with an additional 30,000 granted to dependents. The uptake of these visas is largely concentrated among four nationalities: India, Nigeria, China, and Pakistan, which collectively account for 70% of all Graduate Route visas, with Indian nationals making up over 40%.

The initial proposal to restrict the number of graduate visas stemmed from a desire to lower overall migration figures. However, the backlash from within the Cabinet was significant. Key ministers, including Chancellor Jeremy Hunt, Home Secretary James Cleverly, and Education Secretary Gillian Keegan, joined Cameron in expressing their opposition. They argued that the proposed restrictions would not only undermine the financial health of universities but also hinder the UK's economic growth by reducing the influx of skilled graduates who contribute to various sectors.

The government is now contemplating more modest reforms to address potential loopholes and prevent abuse of the immigration system, as reported by The Guardian. These changes are likely to include measures targeting overseas agents who market graduate visa schemes, particularly in countries like India. Such agents could face penalties if they fail to deliver the quality of students they promise. Additionally, there may be stricter requirements for foreign students, including mandatory English language tests such as IELTS, and universities with high dropout rates could risk losing their licences to recruit international students.

- With inputs from agencies

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