Key Takeaways from the MAC Graduate Route Review

 In News

Authors: Patrick Jack, Tom Williams

The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC), chaired by Professor Brian Bell of King’s College London, recently completed a review of the UK’s graduate visa route at the request of Home Secretary James Cleverly. Here’s what you need to know about their findings and recommendations.

Graduate Visa Route Remains Intact
The MAC’s review, critical for the education sector, affirms the two-year graduate visa, advising the government to keep it unchanged. The visa has met its objectives well, contributing to the expansion of university course offerings and compensating for reduced income from domestic students and research.

Key Recommendations and Finding
– The MAC suggests implementing a mandatory registration system for international recruitment agents and requiring universities to annually publish data on expenses and the number of students recruited through these agents.
– Universities should confirm the course outcomes to the Home Office upon a student’s graduation.
– The review highlighted the disproportionate use of the graduate route by nationals from India, Nigeria, China, and Pakistan, representing 70% of all users. The route is predominantly utilized by postgraduate students, with a growing number of visa holders aged over 25.

Performance and Impact
– The graduate visa has led to significant student inflows, especially in non-Russell Group universities, indicating it attracts a broad range of international students.
– Approximately 40% of graduates move to London post-graduation, reflecting a trend towards seeking employment in the capital. The East of England and Wales have seen notable increases in student numbers.
– Financially, graduates contribute positively through taxes and low healthcare costs, bolstered by the Immigration Health Surcharge and restrictions on public funds access.

Misuse Concerns Addressed
Contrary to criticism branding it a “Deliveroo” visa for promoting low-wage jobs, the MAC found that abuse levels are minimal, and the route’s conditions limit potential misuse. Importantly, employment outcomes and wages for visa holders improved over time, with many transitioning to skilled worker visas.

Looking Ahead
Despite the government’s consideration of the review, pressure from conservative factions for stricter immigration controls persists. However, the sector can now leverage these robust findings to advocate for further restrictions. Any tightening could hinder the UK’s goal of hosting 600,000 international students and adversely affect university finances and job security.

In conclusion, the MAC’s comprehensive review supports the continuation of the graduate route, highlighting its benefits to the UK’s educational and economic landscape. The government’s response to these findings remains forthcoming amid ongoing debates on immigration policy.

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