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Immigration News: A Rapid Review of the Graduate Route by the Migration Advisory Committee

By 16th May 2024 No Comments

MAC Committee Report: Key Findings and Recommendations

In this report, Taylor Hampton Solicitors Immigration Department looks into the Graduate Route  a new option devised by the Migration Advisory Committee. Otherwise known as the MAC, the committee falls under the Home Office and the Home Secretary is ultimately responsible for its success.

 

The Graduate Route immigration assistance for students from Taylor Hampton Solicitors

The Graduate Route

Introduction

On 11 March 2024, the UK government tasked the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) with conducting a swift review of the Graduate route. The Home Secretary set a tight deadline, requiring the report by 14 May 2024. The commissioning letter, which laid out the broad scope of this review, emphasized the government’s intent to continue attracting “the brightest and best” international students in line with the International Education Strategy. The Graduate route is seen as crucial to this ambition. Nevertheless, concerns exist that it might be attracting migrants more interested in post-study work opportunities than in obtaining a quality education.

MAC’s Approach to the Review

The MAC was asked to provide evidence-based answers to five key questions:

  1. Evidence of Abuse of the Route: Are there any signs of misuse of the Graduate route, suggesting it might not be serving its intended purpose?
  2. User Demographics: Who is using the Graduate route, and from which universities did they graduate?
  3. Trends and Demographics: What are the demographics for students who obtain a study visa, then use the Graduate route to enter the UK labour market?
  4. Economic Contribution: What work do individuals do during and after their time on the Graduate route, and are they contributing to the UK economy?
  5. Impact on Higher Education: Is the Graduate route undermining the integrity and quality of the UK higher education system? Is it genuinely attracting the “brightest and best,” contributing to economic growth, and benefiting British higher education and soft power?

Findings and Recommendations

Evidence of Abuse

Our review did not find widespread abuse of the Graduate route. The route’s minimal conditions reduce the risk of misuse. However, the MAC could not assess the risk of overstaying due to a lack of data from the Home Office. It noted potential exploitation by recruitment agents, which, although separate from the Graduate route’s abuse, is concerning. Student representatives and sector bodies reported instances of poor practices by agents mis-selling UK higher education.

User Demographics

In 2023, the Graduate route saw 114,000 main applicants and 30,000 dependents. The majority of users were from India, Nigeria, China, and Pakistan. India alone however, accounts for over 40% of the total. Most users had completed postgraduate taught courses, primarily from non-Russell Group universities, which have driven the recent growth in Student visas.

Trends and Demographics

The age profile of Graduate route users is shifting, with an increase in applicants over 25, now comprising 54% of the total. This change coincides with a higher ratio of dependents, particularly children. The recent change in dependent rules has already led to an 80% decrease in dependent applications in early 2024 compared to early 2023. We anticipate more comprehensive data in September 2024 to fully understand this policy’s impact.

Economic Contribution thanks to the Graduate Route

Graduate visa holders often start in lower-paid positions. However, they typically see their earnings improve over time. In fact, after a year, their earnings are comparable to domestic graduates. Many transition to Skilled Worker visas. As a matter of fact, their earnings and job roles align closely with those of UK graduates. While the economic impact of Graduate visa holders is small, it is generally positive. However, the lack of data on dependents’ employment outcomes prevents a full assessment of their economic contribution.

Impact on Higher Education

The Graduate route is not undermining the integrity and quality of the UK higher education system. It supports financial stability for universities by compensating for losses on domestic students and research funding. This financial contribution has allowed universities to expand their course offerings and diversify the range of institutions benefiting from international students. However, the issue of poor practices by some recruitment agents remains a risk to the sector’s integrity. We could not define “brightest and best” for this review, but evidence suggests long-term stayers contribute positively to the economy and public finances. The Graduate route’s impact on the UK’s soft power, while likely positive, remains difficult to quantify.

Conclusion

The MAC fully supports the government’s practice of regularly reviewing immigration routes like the Graduate route. While limited by time and data, this review provides broad recommendations to enhance the Graduate route. Moreover it address issues with international recruitment agents, and improves data sharing, monitoring, and evaluation. Migration policy changes should consider broader impacts and trade-offs, particularly in how they affect higher education providers and local public services.

In Summary, these MAC findings highlight the need for better data and coordinated planning to ensure the Graduate route continues to attract top talent and benefit the UK economy and higher education sector.

Taylor Hampton Solicitors assists with visa services and immigration including the Graduate Route and Global Talent Visas as well as supporting corporates bringing in staff.  For more information contact Leena Chouhan on 0207 427 5972 or email [email protected]

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