The Government has recently announced a number of changes to the Immigration Rules that will come into effect on 6 April 2013.  Two of the changes are of particular relevance for UK Higher Education Institutions (HEIs).

  • The Tier 1 (Graduate entrepreneur) route will be expanded to include additional places for talented MBA graduates from UK HEIs and to accommodate the UK Trade and Investment’s elite global graduate entrepreneur scheme.  From 6 April 2013 there will be 2,000 places per year (increased from the current limit of 1,000 places), comprising 1,000 places for MBA graduates of UK HEIs, 900 places for graduates in any subject from UK HEIs, and 100 places for elite global graduate entrepreneurs.  With the exception of the 100 elite global places for graduate entrepreneurs, the places will be split between participating HEIs.
  • Tier 4 (General) students who successfully complete their PhD will be able to stay in the UK for one year beyond the end of the studies to find skilled work or set up as an entrepreneur.  

These changes follow strong debate about the effects of the closure in April 2012 of the Tier 1 (Post-study work) category.  This route allowed non-EEA graduates to work in the UK for up to two years following graduation, provided a bridge to longer term skilled work in the UK, and was considered by many to be a key part of the attractiveness of the UK as a destination for international students. 

Whilst the changes this April will be welcomed by many HEIs, the impact of them is likely to be limited given the small relatively small number of students who will be eligible, particularly when compared with the 49,654 Tier 1 (Post-study work) visa that were granted in the calendar year ending December 2011.  Other developed countries, including the USA, Germany, France, Australia and Canada, have immigration routes comparable with the former Tier 1 (Post-study work) route in the UK.  Whilst this remains the case, many international students may be tempted to study in these countries rather than in the UK.  The full impact of this on the finances of HEIs and the overall UK economy remains to be seen.