Opening Doors For International Students Is A Welcome Step Towards Open Britain

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The U.K. is to relax visa restrictions for international students in a welcome sign that Brexit does not have to mean fortress Britain.

International students will be offered a two-year work visa post graduation, giving them time to find a job when they have completed their university course.

This is a reversal of the hard-line stance taken by Theresa May when she was Home Secretary in 2012, which cut the amount of time international students had to find a job in the U.K. from two years to four months.

The move, part of May’s intention to create a "hostile environment" for immigrants, was widely criticized at the time as draconian and potentially driving much-needed talent away from the U.K. It was also blamed for a fall in international student enrolments, which provide a significant source of income for the U.K.’s universities.

Today’s announcement will help maintain the U.K’s position as one of the top destinations for international students, and is a rare example in the Brexit era of Britain pointing the gun at its foot but deciding not to fire.

In a further boost for Britain’s image among international students, under the new visa regime there will be no cap on numbers, and the work visas will be available irrespective of the subject studied. The change will apply for international students taking bachelor level or above courses from next year onwards.

The CBI, which represents British business, welcomed the move. "This is unequivocally good news and sends a clear signal that the U.K. is open for business," said policy director Matthew Fell.

"Improving the U.K.’s post-study work offer will make us an even more attractive destination for global talent - benefiting both universities and businesses alike."

International students bring diversity to the education sector and provide a competitive advantage for U.K. businesses, he said.

"Overseas students forge lasting ties with the U.K. which stay with them throughout their careers. It is right that the government has recognised their enormous contribution," he added.

The U.K. has long been one of the most popular destinations for international students, aided by the reputation of its universities as well as the desirability of an English-language education. According to a report published by the OECD yesterday, the U.K. accounted for around one in 10 of all international students from OECD and partner countries, second only to the U.S.

But Brexit has imperilled another key element in its appeal - as a gateway to continental Europe - so a more welcoming approach to students may help address fears that it will become less attractive.

Alistair Jarvis, chief executive of Universities U.K., said the lack of post-study work opportunities had put the U.K. at a competitive disadvantage in attracting international students. A two-year visa would "put us back where we belong as a first-choice study destination," he said.

Not everyone welcomed the move, however. Migration Watch, a pressure group which argues for increased restrictions on immigration, said it would lead to overseas graduates taking unskilled jobs and would turn study visas into a ‘backdoor route’ to working in the U.K.

But while immigration continues to be a controversial issue, there is no doubt that today’s announcement will help counter the image that Brexit means Britain is pulling up the drawbridge.

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Getty

The U.K. is to relax visa restrictions for international students in a welcome sign that Brexit does not have to mean fortress Britain.

International students will be offered a two-year work visa post graduation, giving them time to find a job when they have completed their university course.

This is a reversal of the hard-line stance taken by Theresa May when she was Home Secretary in 2012, which cut the amount of time international students had to find a job in the U.K. from two years to four months.

The move, part of May’s intention to create a "hostile environment" for immigrants, was widely criticized at the time as draconian and potentially driving much-needed talent away from the U.K. It was also blamed for a fall in international student enrolments, which provide a significant source of income for the U.K.’s universities.

Today’s announcement will help maintain the U.K’s position as one of the top destinations for international students, and is a rare example in the Brexit era of Britain pointing the gun at its foot but deciding not to fire.

In a further boost for Britain’s image among international students, under the new visa regime there will be no cap on numbers, and the work visas will be available irrespective of the subject studied. The change will apply for international students taking bachelor level or above courses from next year onwards.

The CBI, which represents British business, welcomed the move. "This is unequivocally good news and sends a clear signal that the U.K. is open for business," said policy director Matthew Fell.

"Improving the U.K.’s post-study work offer will make us an even more attractive destination for global talent - benefiting both universities and businesses alike."

International students bring diversity to the education sector and provide a competitive advantage for U.K. businesses, he said.

"Overseas students forge lasting ties with the U.K. which stay with them throughout their careers. It is right that the government has recognised their enormous contribution," he added.

The U.K. has long been one of the most popular destinations for international students, aided by the reputation of its universities as well as the desirability of an English-language education. According to a report published by the OECD yesterday, the U.K. accounted for around one in 10 of all international students from OECD and partner countries, second only to the U.S.

But Brexit has imperilled another key element in its appeal - as a gateway to continental Europe - so a more welcoming approach to students may help address fears that it will become less attractive.

Alistair Jarvis, chief executive of Universities U.K., said the lack of post-study work opportunities had put the U.K. at a competitive disadvantage in attracting international students. A two-year visa would "put us back where we belong as a first-choice study destination," he said.

Not everyone welcomed the move, however. Migration Watch, a pressure group which argues for increased restrictions on immigration, said it would lead to overseas graduates taking unskilled jobs and would turn study visas into a ‘backdoor route’ to working in the U.K.

But while immigration continues to be a controversial issue, there is no doubt that today’s announcement will help counter the image that Brexit means Britain is pulling up the drawbridge.

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I’m a freelance journalist specializing in education. My career so far has taken in regional and national newspapers and magazines, including Forbes, The Daily Telegraph...