Student Visas - Business, Innovation and Skills Committee Contents


Further written evidence submitted by Mina Kasherova, International Students' Officer, Sheffield University

STUDENT IMMIGRATION CHANGES

I am writing to you in my capacity as elected representative of international students at the University of Sheffield further to our letter of 22 March to express our ongoing concerns with regards to the government's changes to the immigration rules following the consulation on the student visa reforms and their Statement of Intent in relation to students published on 31 March 2011.

With this second letter I would like to stress on the fact that there are not many full-time international student representatives who could be making a similar case to your Committee, and I hope you see our contribution as a reflection of students' concerns on a national level despite the fact that many international students are underrepresented and such fears are rarely voiced out on a national scale.

1.  Post study work

The UKBA's current position in relation to the Tier 1 Post Study Work route is that it will close to new applicants in April 2012 and that those who wish to undertake post study work after then will need to have a sponsor under Tier 2. The agency has said that it is also looking at creating a student entrepreneur route, the details of which have not been announced.

The agency's current position is that those graduating with a UK degree, PGCE or PGDE will be able to switch, without being subject to the limits on Tier 2 or the RLMT, providing they are going to be paid the minimum rate, currently suggested to be £20,000, or the minimum rate set out in the relevant code of practice.

However, the Statement of Intent in relation to students, which was published on 31 March 2011, states that the Government will monitor the numbers switching into Tier 2. It states that, if necessary, the MAC will be consulted on "how to address any abuse (including the subsequent imposition of a limit) …" This means that if too many legitimate students apply to enter Tier 2 then this "abuse" may lead to restrictions.

There is no doubt that for many students, the PSW Scheme acted as a very effective "carrot" to come to the UK even in practice the total numbers remaining represented a relatively small proportion of the total students coming to the UK. We still think that the closure of this scheme is likely to have a negative impact on the attractiveness of the UK as a study destination. The current lack of clarity about the successor scheme will only add to this situation.

RECOMMENDATION

It is important that employers, universities, business schools and prospective students are given more certainty about post study work options if the UK is to remain attractive to the "brightest and the best" students.

2.  Impact on SMEs

UK-based employers need to be able to recruit graduate talent from overseas to work in the UK for a number of reasons, for example to fill shortage positions or to recruit for specialist language and cultural skills. These posts could previously be filled with foreign graduates using the PSW route. It is our view that the new Tier 2 scheme will not be attractive or easily accessible to small and medium enterprises who wish to expand into overseas markets but who neither have the time, the expertise nor need to become a Tier 2 sponsor.

In particular, we are very concerned that the new Tier 2 scheme may negatively impact small and medium enterprises in our region particularly in the science sector. Evidence on salaries collected via the 2009-10 Destination of Leavers from Higher Education (DLHE) survey shows that first degree graduates entering the science sector across the UK are unlikely to be paid over £20k (see attached spreadsheet). Given these figures are based on graduates working throughout the UK it will be the case that data for the Yorkshire and Humber region will be lower than these figures.

The situation for graduates completing higher degrees is better, but given the lower salary levels in the Yorkshire and Humber region this suggests that the impact on SMEs looking to recruit science specialists in the region may be adversely affected.

RECOMMENDATION

That some further consideration is given to enabling SMEs to recruit graduate talent from overseas without the additional requirements of being a Tier 2 sponsor and a review of the graduate salary levels on a regional basis.

Our current and prospective students are finding it difficult to plan their futures due to the uncertainties around the new post study work arrangements. Employers are also uncertain about how they can plan for their human resource requirements. We urge the government to provide some clarity and to consider how these changes may be implemented in a way that minimises the possible negative impacts outlined above.

9 May 2011


 
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Prepared 18 July 2011