Architects have spoken out against tough new immigration rules for foreign students set to come into place ‘within weeks’
New Home Office guidance will mean overseas students must earn at least £20,000 a year and work for ‘reputable’, approved outfits to stay in the country after completing their courses.
Currently students may work in the UK for two years after graduating, irrespective of their earnings.
Robert Adam of ADAM Architecture described the shake-up as yet ‘another restriction where decent firms end up having to suffer because of the crooks’.
Complaining that the coalition’s recent changes to immigration rules had made it ‘much more difficult’ for his practice to hire overseas staff, he said: ‘I thought the Conservatives wanted to reduce red tape’.
‘Many stay in the UK after completing their Part 1, and with the current economic situation, [it will be hard] to earn in excess of the proposed amount,’ a spokesperson said. ‘Recent data shows an average pay of £17,692 a year for post-Part 1 students.’
The measures could also increase the ‘brain drain’ trend of UK-trained international students setting up practice overseas, they claimed.
‘It’s a shame as the UK should be doing more to encourage graduates not only to stay, but to expand the architectural talent pool in this country.’
Nick Willson of Nick Willson Architects said the £20,000 figure was ‘not too high’ for employing Part 2 graduates, but emphasised the importance of securing a ‘range’ of people from different countries in practice.
He said: ‘We are operating in an international world and don’t want to become too separate from it. China is booming and we need to maintain good links – [UK] education and our excellent brand should be encouraged.’
Immigration minister Damian Green said: ‘It is vital that we continue to attract the brightest and the best international students, but we have to be more selective about who can come here and how long they can stay.
‘In the past, too many students have come to the UK to work rather than study, and this abuse must end.’
Postscript: Comment by David Gloster, RIBA director of education
Whilst any changes to the current situation are likely to have implications, the proposed revisions to the visa regulations will not necessarily be detrimental to the numbers of international students wishing to study in the UK. The appeal of UK architecture education lies in its exploratory nature, and the high degree of academic flexibility our schools offer their students. Equally, many major practices operating globally are based in the UK, thus potential employment in UK practice is an added inducement for overseas students to continue to study here
Post part 1 graduates on their year out are not interns; if employed by an RIBA Chartered Practice, they will be in remunerated employment paying at least the National Minimum Wage. From an immigration standpoint, overseas students on their year out may retain their status as students as work placements are permitted, for which there is no minimum threshold salary requirement set by the UK Border Agency
Research currently being undertaken by the RIBA indicates that there are considerable variations in salaries from region to region, and, in some, salaries are likely to be below the threshold stated for the Tier 2 visa likely to be available for part 2 graduates. Therefore, there are concerns the proposed changes will affect overseas students. The RIBA will emphasise this concern, using its research to argue that the immigration salary threshold for post part 2 placements must be in line with norms for remuneration in the profession as a whole.