The government has confirmed it is reintroducing post-study work visas for international students as part of a wider reform of the immigration system
The two-year visas were controversially scrapped in 2011 and replaced with a system which meant non-UK architecture undergraduates (Part 1) had just four months after graduating to find a job which qualified for visa-related residency.
As a result only Part 2 overseas students with ‘sponsoring employers’ were permitted to remain in the country longer.
Brought in by then foreign secretary and later prime minister Theresa May, the move was aimed at reducing the number of international students.
The reversal, which means students now have two years, will be applauded by both employers and universities.
Bartlett Faculty of the Built Environment’s Alan Penn said: ‘This is a welcome recognition by government of the benefits to UK business of allowing those that we train to go on to work in UK firms. For the last eight years we have been in the rather perverse position of training the brightest students from all around the world in the latest research, only to find that UK firms were not allowed to benefit from the investment.
’We were essentially exporting our knowledge lead. When students have a period of post study work they form strong networks with UK business and when they return to their home country they become excellent ambassadors for the UK and leads for export.’
New RIBA president Alan Jones added: ’This a very welcome announcement for architects. The RIBA has long-recommended the return of the post-study work visa, to ensure that we can attract and retain new talent to our world class schools of architecture. The revocation of this visa has significantly impacted international students studying in the UK, over the past seven years.
’In these uncertain times, with an imminent potential no-deal Brexit, we will continue to make a case for an immigration system that works for the sector.’
Under the new system, once the two years is up graduates can switch to another visa – the skilled work visa – ’if they find a job which meets the skill requirements’.
Earlier this week the Home Office’s announced that architects had been officially added to the Shortage Occupation List (SOL).
Lindsay Urquhart of Bespoke Careers
I agree with Alan Jones that this is positive, but the most acute shortage of talent is for experienced architects who can hit the ground running and deliver projects, rather than for recent graduates. In London we continue to see demand outweigh supply for those with at least two years post-Part 2 experience through to project architect level. Those with strong Revit skills are in particularly short supply.
Applications from the Continent continue to be down circa 38 per cent, compared with numbers we were receiving prior to the [Brexit] vote.
Marco Iuliano, associate professor at the University of Liverpool
There is an important ethical component attached to this news. It was highly unfair to enrol students to study in the UK and then deny them the right to apply their acquired skills straight away.
At a time of uncertainty it’s a good signal from the government: diversity and meritocracy are two key-words that helped Britain to become a leading country. Let’s hope that similarly sensible thinking will now be applied in the next, crucial, political decisions.