ESN UK welcomes the Migration Advisory Committee published review of the graduate route, further confirming that there is no evidence that the Graduate Route is being abused by applicants - as claimed by the Government. A key recommendation is to “Retain the Graduate Route in its current form” to avoid significant financial losses to universities, as well as utilise the potential of international graduates and the benefits they bring to our economy and job market.


Acknowledging this, supposed Government plans to reduce access to the graduate route - meaning a graduated international student may only be able to stay in the UK for six or twelve months instead of two years - represents a lack of coherence present when discussing international students. On the one hand, the Government claims to prioritise attracting the ‘Best and Brightest’ students to high-quality HEIs, but on the other, appears not to trust those students enough to allow them to use their quality education to benefit our society.


A six- or twelve-month graduate route does not give graduates enough time to find a ‘skilled’ job of £38k+ per annum, with entry-level jobs starting at salaries below this. Time frames are often too limiting to achieve the required income. Additionally, according to recent research, the UK is falling from the leaderboard of top study destinations but remains popular for international students due to the opportunities presented by the graduate route. Reeling in access could lead to a further drop in popularity as students are discouraged from studying at the UK’s top-quality universities. According to our report, International Student Perspective UK, students are unsure about their ability to stay in the UK after their studies, with 42.8% of respondents stating this. Additionally, 65% stated that they did not intend to stay in the UK after their studies, with qualitative data showing frustration with bureaucracy, finding stable employment, and financial aspects. The UK's ever-changing and uncertain policy landscape has already begun to deter students who would otherwise be keen to use their skills and knowledge to better our society.


For UK universities, immigration policy changes such as this further enhance the risk of losing the essential funding that international students bring in. Dangerous anti-immigration rhetoric, leading to limited access to UK higher education, risks further discouraging students from coming to study. As many as fifty-five universities have announced redundancies and cuts of millions of funding due to this issue - creating further risk to the quality of education received by those who manage to study in the UK.


We firmly believe international students should maintain an important and consistent place in the UK and UK higher education, bringing societal benefits through internationalisation at home and economic gains to our local communities. Erasmus Student Network UK, therefore, encourages policy-makers to consider how incoming students improve and benefit our society and reconsider policies that further decrease the UK’s appeal as a prospective study destination.