As Brexit lumbers on and the UK’s departure from the European Union gets closer and closer, it is perhaps unsurprising that thoughts have started to turn to how to make sure the country remains a destination for those wanting to study and work.
One idea, mooted this week by an all-party parliamentary group, is that a target should be set for growing international student numbers in the UK, and a post-study work visa established to allow people to work in the UK for two years.
In its report, A Sustainable Future for International Students in the UK, the All-Party Parliamentary Group for International Students also calls for a commitment to remove students from the target to reduce net migration – something that many in the FE and HE sectors have been calling for over the past few years.
The report recommends that as part of the Brexit deal, the government should also push for unrestricted movement of EU students and researchers, and provide urgent clarity for EU nationals studying and researching in the UK on what changes they will experience in visa and funding rights, .
Paul Blomfield MP, co-chair of the APPG, said: “Increasingly restrictive policies and procedures over the last eight years have discouraged many international students from applying to the UK. We need to press the reset button, establish an ambitious strategy to increase recruitment, put new policies in place, and send out a clear message that international students are welcome in the UK.”
He added: “Our report offers a way forward for the government, and a route-map to renewed competitiveness for our world-class universities and colleges. I urge ministers to look carefully at our recommendations and step up to the challenge.”
Other recommendations included a change to the immigration rules so that students are facilitated and encouraged to study not only in the UK but at multiple study levels within the UK education system.
The report also said that the government needed promote and protect the diversity of the UK education sector, specifically mentioning small, specialist, vocational and further education providers within the proposed recruitment strategy.