British Council described the new announcements as "exciting news", which would help strengthen the talent and research pipeline between India and the UK, leading to greater research innovation and stronger education systems.
Indian students are among the biggest group of international students set to benefit from an extended post-study work visa offer for PhD students as well as a more streamlined visa process, announced by the UK government on Wednesday.
As part of a wider Research and Development Roadmap, the British government has pledged to make it easier for international graduates to secure skilled jobs in the UK and contribute to its economic growth.
“As part of the new graduate route, international students who complete a PhD from Summer 2021 can stay in the UK for three years after study to live and work,” notes a UK government statement.
“As previously announced, students who have successfully completed undergraduate and master’s degrees will be able to stay two years after study. This will make it easier for some of the best, young international graduates to secure skilled jobs in the UK and contribute to economic growth,” it said.
In addition, there are plans to ensure that when the Student Route opens in a few months as part of the UK’s new points-based immigration system, there will be a number of improvements which will further “streamline the immigration process”.
“These include extending the window in which prospective students can make visa applications, removing study time limits at postgraduate level and allowing all students to switch to another type of visa from within the UK,” the statement notes.
British Council described the new announcements as “exciting news”, which would help strengthen the talent and research pipeline between India and the UK, leading to greater research innovation and stronger education systems.
“Indian PhD students, who have chosen the UK education and work experience route to develop their careers will experience three years in an international context that will benefit these professionals immensely,” said Barbara Wickham, Director India, British Council.
“This also strengthens our existing programmes such as UKIERI [UK-India Education and Research Initiative] and Newton Bhabha that aim to drive academic links and research collaboration between our two countries,” she said.
While the details and fineprint of the changes will become clear over the course of the next few months, the announcement has been widely welcomed as a positive step in attracting talented international students to study and research in the UK. Indian students, seen as particularly sensitive to friendly visa policies, drive the UK’s overseas student growth as the second-largest category after China and recently registering a 32.9 per cent rise in applications for 2020 over the previous year.
“The post-study work visa will be of particular appeal to students from India, who are very sensitive to whether or not they have an ability to stay on in the country after they graduate to put to use the skills they have acquired in higher education and earn a bit of money to help them pay the pretty considerable fees that our universities charge them,” says former UK Universities minister Jo Johnson, who had pushed for an extended post-study visa offer in a recent report.
Universities UK International (UUKi), which represents all major UK universities and has been campaigning for a credible post-study work visa offer – or Graduate Route, welcomed the latest government announcements.
UUKi Director Vivienne Stern said: “News that the Graduate Route, announced in September last year, is to be extended to allow PhD students to stay in the UK for three years rather than two is a fantastic development.
“The UK is a great place to do a PhD – and we will be fortunate to retain more Indian PhD graduates to contribute to our research system and our economy after they complete their studies.”
The changes form part of a wider British government strategy to enhance the UK’s role as a science and research “superpower”.
It includes the creation of a new Office for Talent to be based at No. 10 Downing Street with delivery teams across government departments with the aim of making the immigration of scientists, researchers and innovators “simple, easy and quick” from countries around the world, including India.