Dr Mohammad Ali Wasim, Lecturer, Staffordshire Business School
In this time of uncertainty where Brexit is looming round the corner there is some form of relief for international students who make their way to the UK for higher education. Despite paying a significantly higher fee they end up being unable to find work due to strict visa restrictions which make it difficult for companies to sponsor their work visas. Experts argue that this was a smart move by the government given the fact that post Brexit there could be a significant impact on the labour market and to cater to the potential shortage the post study work permit would be a ‘win, win’ scenario. The employers would be able to fill the gaps with UK qualified international students and the international students would get an opportunity to benefit from UK work experience.
It is difficult to evaluate at this stage the impact the visa regime would have as a further analysis on the impact of Brexit on different industries needs to carried out. In hindsight when the visa regime was made stricter during the tenure of Theresa May as Home Secretary in 2012, the UK found it difficult to recruit international students and the students then preferred Australia and other EU countries over the UK. Experts argue that the full benefit of the scheme would be observable once the new visa regime comes into operation in 2020 and how it pans out for the benefits of the students and whether it is extendable beyond two years. A longer term opportunity would be beneficial for both the potential UK employers and their international student employees. This scenario also needs to be looked at keeping in mind the excessively high visa and its extension fee which the international students will have to bear when shifting to the new regime.
Staffordshire University has a significant influx of international students every year and this new visa regime would help secure more international candidates who would not only add to the diversity at the University enhancing student learning but also contribute to the local economy where initially students may participate through part time jobs to gain experience. In addition, employers would also have an advantage as they will have a bigger pool of resources to recruit and potentially benefit from.
Like any government policy, consistency is the key to its success. With changing governments and their fluctuating policies the impact of potentially beneficial schemes may be limited. The hope is that given the circumstances and uncertainty due to Brexit, the return of the post study work permit would be a permanent policy decision and not impacted by the outcome of the Brexit deal. Otherwise it would be considered more of a political gimmick to gain short term support and appease the disgruntled public because of the Brexit uncertainty.