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– UK Government Initiates Review of Graduate Immigration Route

The Graduate Immigration Route (GIR) was implemented on July 1st, 2021, permitting all international students in the UK enrolling after July 2021 to stay in the UK for a period of two years upon finishing their studies. Initially known as the post-study work visa, the GIR was first introduced in 2007, discontinued on April 6, 2012, and later reintroduced in 2021 under the name GIR. However, after just 3 years of its reinstatement, the UK government has initiated a review based on various factors.

To comprehend the significance of the GIR for Indian students, it is essential to recognize India as a market highly sensitive to costs, where many students rely on external funding like bank loans, grants, and scholarships to pursue their overseas education dreams. Statistics from public sector banks reveal that over 460,000 Indian students utilized bank loans for studying abroad, with nearly 10% utilizing loans for medical studies. Moreover, university scholarships rank as the third most influential factor in selecting a study destination, following rankings and career opportunities. The GIR empowers Indian students to extend their stay, facilitating the acquisition of international work exposure, multicultural experiences, and a partial return on their educational investment, thereby significantly reducing their debt burden. Consequently, unlike other markets such as China and MENA, the option to remain in the UK holds substantial value for Indian students.

Increasing Enrollment

The surge in the number of Indian students pursuing education in the UK since the introduction of the GIR in 2021 has been remarkable, with enrollment figures escalating from 37,500 in 2019 to 133,237 in 2023, marking a 350% surge within a span of 4 years. The UK Home Office has disclosed issuing 175,872 GIR visas since the route’s inception in 2021. Home Secretary James Cleverly has instructed the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC), an autonomous advisory body on migration matters, to evaluate the impact and utilization of the GIR by international students.

The MAC has been assigned the task of examining five key areas:

  1. Identifying instances of misuse: Ensuring that the GIR is not exploited by international students as a loophole for entry into the UK, particularly by those lacking genuine interest in studying in the country.

  2. Identifying the universities issuing the highest number of GIR visas and tracking the escalation in these figures.

  3. Assessing the actual efficacy of the GIR in aiding international students in securing suitable opportunities in the UK.

  4. Evaluating the UK’s gains from the GIR in terms of skill enhancement and economic contributions.

  5. Crucially, ascertaining whether the GIR is successful in attracting the most talented and brilliant students globally, aligning with the primary objective behind introducing the visa.

Final Decision Timeline

Although the MAC has until May 14 to furnish their review to Home Secretary James Cleverly, a final verdict is not expected promptly. The government has not specified a date for the conclusive decision, but projections suggest it may materialize in July or later, allowing ample time for a thorough examination of the MAC review report.

Future of the GIR

The outcome remains uncertain, with only insiders privy to such information. Considering the manifold economic, cultural, and diversity advantages international students bring to UK universities, a complete discontinuation of the GIR seems improbable. Industry experts and veterans anticipate potential links of the visa to academic performance, subject preferences, or select university cohorts. Any decision concerning the GIR is anticipated to have minimal impact on students commencing studies in the UK in September 2024, with probable restrictions targeting future students planning to embark on their academic journey post-January 2025. While uncertainties prevail, clarity will only emerge post the final verdict.

Moving Forward

Given the anticipated delay in the final decision, students are advised to proceed with their application processes and secure university offers. Notably, most UK universities do not levy application fees, mitigating risks for students reconsidering their choices post the verdict. With plans expected to be finalized by September, students have the flexibility to make informed decisions. They may opt to secure admission at their preferred university by remitting the requisite deposit (part of the tuition fee); however, it is advisable to verify the university’s refund policy in case of plan alterations post the final decision (anticipated in June/July or later).

(Personal opinions expressed herein)

(Co-founder, Gresham Global)