A survey from higher education think tank QS has revealed just 6% of prospective international students considering studying in the UK are aware that they can stay in the country and work for two years after graduating.
Almost half (48%) of the students surveyed thought the length of post-study work rights was between zero and four months, while 25% believed it was between five and 12 months. Around 17% admitted they didn’t know.
“Overall awareness of the visa extension among international students remains very low”
“The UK government’s decision last autumn to extend the post-study work visa for international students, from four months to two years, was a welcome first step,” said Nunzio Quacquarelli, chief executive at QS.
“However, our research shows that overall awareness of the visa extension among international students remains very low. To ensure that Britain remains a top destination for international students, the UK will need to communicate this more effectively with priority student markets moving forward.”
UKCISA chief executive Anne Marie Graham further added that she was unsurprised at “the disparity in awareness about the post-study work route”, noting UKCISA had been receiving enquiries about it.
“The latest Home Office guidance for Tier-4 visa holders and sponsors does provide assurances about the introduction of the graduate route, but this survey demonstrates that we urgently need more clarity in the official communications about the UK’s post-study work offer, especially in light of the Covid-19 crisis,” she added.
Strangely and despite this apparent lack of awareness of post-study work rights, which suggests working in the UK after graduating is not a huge factor for these students at the point of application, 60% also said they would be more likely to study in the UK if the length of the post-study work visa was extended from two years to three.
QS surveyed 78,000 students globally, of which 33,000 expressed an interest in the UK as a study destination.
However, due to the current coronavirus situation, the proportion of students changing their UK study plans has risen from 27% in mid-February to 58% in late March.
Just over half plan to defer their entry until 2021 if they are unable to start their studies this year. The reasons they gave for this include cancelled exams, travel restrictions, and fear that they would be paying “thousands to only get online tuition”.
“With Covid-19 travel bans and social distancing measures in place, university finances and student recruitment strategies are adjusting to painful new realities,” said Jo Johnson, chairman of ApplyBoard and former UK minister of state for universities, science, research and innovation.
“To thrive in the new landscape, higher education institutions will need to rely more heavily on international student recruitment through a completely digital process. Governments can help by acting quickly to ensure that the value proposition of studying abroad does not diminish due to travel restrictions.”
However, not all international students are keen on online degrees. Four out of 10 said they “have no interest at all in studying their degree online”, despite institutions quickly developing online provision for next year.
“Surveys of future behaviour have, in the past, proven a poor guide on what students actually come to do”
“Universities are doing a lot behind the scenes to ensure any online learning that needs to occur in the next academic year is smoother than the measures that were put in place in a rush when Covid-19 hit a few weeks ago,” said HEPI director Nick Hillman.
“They know many students want a full experience on campus but, while that is not possible, they will continue striving to replicate online the best features of face-to-face learning.”
“But all is far from lost. Surveys of future behaviour have, in the past, proven a poor guide on what students actually come to do,” Hillman continued.
“If we all plan ahead sensibly for the next academic year, if universities communicate effectively and often with potential learners and if the government does all it can to ensure the UK looks – and is – a welcoming place, then people will still want to come and study here.
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