CHAPTER 7 – COMING TO THE UK TO STUDY
As we leave the EU, the UK will remain open to the talent we need from Europe and the rest of the world. We have maintained a highly competitive offer for international students who would like to study in the UK at our world-class institutions, boosting growth and supporting our dynamic economy, and the visa process remains straightforward.
We have a strong post-study offer with plenty of opportunities for university students who wish to stay to work in graduate level work, and we are looking to enhance that for all graduates under the future system.
As at present, there will continue to be no limit on the number of international students who can come to study in the UK can recruit to study here under the future border and immigration system. EU students will be subject to the same arrangements as students from the rest of the world and we will consider ways in which we can streamline sponsorship and make it more “light-touch”.
7.1 The UK has a world-leading education system, and the Government will continue to welcome promising students from all around the globe. As the MAC noted, international students are economically beneficial to the UK, and culturally enrich the UK’s education sector. There will continue to be no limit on the number of genuine international students who can come to study in the UK.
7.2 There are currently over 440,000 international students studying in Higher Education in the UK, of whom around 135,000 are ordinarily domiciled within the EU (excluding the UK). Since 2010, there has been a significant increase (around 25 per cent) in the number of non-EU students applying for visas to study at UK universities – numbers of university-sponsored student visa applications are at the
highest on record14, alongside changes to the sponsorship system designed to tackle abuse.
7.3 There are also substantial numbers of international students who come to the UK to study at independent schools, in Further Education or on a short-term basis.
7.4 In developing a fair but robust future border and immigration system for students, we will build on the existing system in place for non-EEA students.
7.5 Prospective non-EEA students are required to demonstrate their academic ability, English language ability and their ability to fund their course fees and living costs to show that they are a genuine student.
7.6 Prospective students must also have a confirmed offer from an education institution in the UK. It is the Government’s intention that the same checks will apply to students from the EEA.
7.7 All students coming to the UK under the future system will be sponsored by the institution at which they are studying, as is currently the case for non-EEA students. We recognise that this will increase the volume of students whom institutions will need to sponsor.
7.8 Whilst we will continue to monitor carefully the compliance of all sponsors and take robust action where sponsors fail to meet the minimum standard, we will also consider ways in which the sponsorship system can be streamlined and made more ‘light-touch’. This will include the development of a new digital system, and engagement with the sector.
7.9 As we move to a single system, we will continue to consider the increased use of differentiation to benefit students from countries with a strong track record of immigration compliance. Such differentiation could include the addition of EEA countries to Appendix H of the Immigration Rules, enabling EEA students to benefit from reduced documentary requirements when applying for a visa.
7.10 Conditions of a student’s leave to remain in the UK will vary according to the level at which they are studying and the length of their course. Generally, those studying full time at degree level (RQF level 6 and equivalents) or above will be afforded generous work rights, subject to right to work checks by employers. Those studying a postgraduate course of more than nine months will be able to bring
7.11 We accept the MAC’s recommendation not to introduce a specific post-study work visa, though we welcome and accept further MAC recommendations onproviding all PhD students with a ‘built-in’ 12-month post-study leave period at the end of their studies and increasing the period in which students can apply for a highly-skilled work visa, both in country before completing their course, and out of
country having completed their studies.
International Students – the current position
There is no limit on the number of international students who can come to study in the UK. Currently, non-EEA students must apply for a Tier 4 visa. They must be sponsored by an education institution and must demonstrate their academic ability, English language ability and meet maintenance requirements to study in the UK.
Those studying at undergraduate level or above are eligible to work for up to 20 hours a week during term-time, and full time during vacation periods. Most students can stay for four months following completion of their course (Master’s students on the Tier 4 pilot can stay for six months, and PhD students can apply for an additional year in the UK post-study under the Doctorate Extension Scheme), and are able to switch into existing work routes (Tier 1 or Tier 2) in-country,if they meet requirements. Students switching into Tier 2 are not counted within the current Tier 2 cap on numbers or subject to the existing Resident Labour Market Test. Those studying a course longer than nine months at Master’s level or above can bring their dependents to the UK. EEA nationals currently have an unrestricted ability to study in the UK and are free to work without restrictions both during and after study.
7.12 Accordingly, building on the successful Tier 4 visa pilot, and its evaluation which began at four institutions in 2016 and was extended to a further institutions in 2017, and noting the MAC’s recommendation, we will increase the post-study leave period following completion of studies to six months for all fulltime postgraduate students. This will benefit tens of thousands of postgraduate students by providing them with more time to gain valuable experience or findemployment in the UK in accordance with the skilled work migration routes.
7.13 We will also go further than the MAC recommendation by extending to six months the period undergraduates who have studied at institutions with degree awarding powers can stay in the UK after completing their studies. This will benefit many thousands of international students in the UK.
7.14 We intend to ensure that international graduates of UK education institutions can switch easily, and in-country, into highly-skilled work. The Government recognises the need to retain international talent to meet the needs of the UK economy, and will work with the education and business sectors to develop
proposals to support students to move into work-based visa routes.
7.15 Many students come to the UK to study short-term courses under the short term study route. The UK also welcomes 555,000 international students to learn English every year, of which 58 per cent come from the EU
7.16 It is our intention that EEA citizens coming to study in the UK for short periods of time, generally up to six months, will be able to come to the UK on the same basis as other non-visa nationals. In the future, we intend to require an ETA.
7.17 The Mobility Framework proposes that the UK and EU should continue to give young people and students the chance to benefit from each other’s world leading universities, including cultural exchanges. We will consider conditions for entry and stay for purposes such as study and youth exchanges. For example, the UK currently welcomes around 70,000 students from the EU under the Erasmus+
cultural exchange. If we continue to participate in this or a similar programme, we intend to ensure that EU citizens can study in the UK without needing to go through the full student visa process.
7.18 We will continue to welcome international students who want to study at independent schools in the UK, building on the existing route for international students under the age of 18 to include EU citizens.