A new report from the Association for Graduate Careers and Advisory Services (AGCAS) has just revealed that among the hundreds of international students they surveyed in 2022, 72 percent of those employed via the graduate route are now in a graduate-level position.
The makeup of the AGCAS survey’s respondents included 77 different nationalities of international students in the UK. Apart from the fact that the majority of the graduates are now employed in the UK, the survey also found that a third of these graduates were in job roles that feature in the UK’s skills shortages list. The most prominent sectors for these international students post-graduation were found to be business, IT, engineering, and education.
On the flipside, AGCAS uncovered several “disheartening tales” from the remaining quarter of international graduates who were still unemployed. Despite having completed their education, many of these graduates reported that they were struggling to find roles in the UK because employers would not accept the graduate route as a valid right to work. In light of this, the AGCAS is calling for 1) a cross-government campaign to educate employers on immigration routes available for overseas students, and 2) to remove the Immigration Skills Charge for switching an employee from the graduate to the skilled worker route.
Discrimination against international students has been fueled by claims from Suella Braverman, the UK home secretary, that foreign students work in low-skilled jobs and do not contribute to growing the economy. Braverman previously commented that international students are “bringing in family members who can piggyback on to their student visa,” suggesting that the scale of foreign students coming to the UK to study was too high and that their dependent family members accompanying them to the UK are not contributing to growing the UK’s economy. These comments came after it was revealed that net migration in the UK climbed to a record 504,000 back in 2022. This was reportedly an increase of 331,000 in a single year, and at least 400,000 more than the home secretary was aiming for.
On the contrary, studies have only gone on to prove these claims incorrect. As the international student community in the UK continues to grow, so does the amount of grants that the UK is giving to work visa applicants. National statistics show that in 2022, there were around 268,000 grants to main applicants on work visas; this is almost twice as many (+95%) than in 2019. Moreover, grants for ‘Skilled Worker’ and ‘Skilled Worker – Health and Care’ visas made up 86% of long-term sponsored work visas granted, and made up over half (54%) of all work visas granted to main applicants in 2022.
The AGCAS report says the graduate route should in fact be extended, if the UK is to “maintain its competitive advantage and protect its market share”.
“International graduates are ready to offer their talent, time, commitment and international knowledge to the UK economy, but many are facing barriers to employment based on their visa status”, Elaine Boyes, AGCAS executive director, said. “The UK risks losing out on talented graduates if these barriers are not addressed.”
And given that international students make an enormous economic contribution of nearly £26 billion, hindering or discouraging the international students in any way could also strike a major blow to the UK’s economy.