Government plans to restrict post-study work rights for international students despite their huge £3.2 billion contribution

International students contribute £3.2 billion to the economy and are plugging the skills shortage gap in the UK according to analysis yet the Government is proposing more restrictions on post-study work rights.

The Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) and Kaplan International Pathways (KAP) have published new research on one cohort of international students who stayed to work in the UK contributing £3.2 billion.

Over £1 billion comes from income tax and £700 million from National Insurance contributions.

Crucially, the think tank found that international students are finding employment in sectors with acute skills shortages. Rather than displacing UK graduates, they are plugging the skills gap.

Lead author of the report, Ms Maike Halterbeck from policy and economics consultancy London Economics said: “The data shows the huge economic contribution of international graduates to the UK economy in the first 10 years following graduation”.

For comparison, graduates from the European Union contribute £1.2 billion.

The research comes after the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) failed to recommend the creation of a new post-study work visa until there is a ‘proper evaluation’ of what students do post-study period. They stated there was still a lack of evidence to show that international students who stay in the UK make a positive contribution.

In 2012, the Home Office limited post-study work rights for international students, costing the government £1 billion since restrictions began. Researchers have argued that the contribution would be even higher if these had not been put in place.

Now, proposals in the Government’s White Paper will introduce a minimum salary threshold of £30,000.

Linda Cowan, the Senior Vice President of KPI said: “Given their high level of English competency and impressive academic achievements, we should be doing everything possible to encourage them to stay and work here.

“We need to reinstate attractive and competitive post-study work rights for all international students”.

Nick Hillman, Director of HEPI said: “Universities firmly believe the Government’s biggest mistake in higher education has been to discourage international students from coming here.

“A hostile environment has been in place for nearly a decade. The hard evidence shows a new approach is long overdue”.

Featured Image: SOAS university, which has a large proportion of international students.

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