Most overseas students who stay in UK find graduate-level roles

Results of study appear to contradict home secretary’s claim that foreign students work in low-skilled jobs

February 16, 2023

Three-quarters of international students on post-study work visas in the UK are employed in graduate-level positions, a new study has found.

The results would appear to contradict previous claims by Suella Braverman, the home secretary, that foreign students work in low-skilled jobs and do not contribute to growing the economy.

According to reports, the Home Office has proposed reducing the time that overseas graduates can stay in the country from two years to six months – although this policy is said to face opposition within government.

A new report from the Association for Graduate Careers and Advisory Services (AGCAS) surveyed hundreds of international students from across 77 nationalities in 2022.

Of those employed via the graduate route, 72 per cent were in a graduate-level role – with business, IT, engineering and education the most prominent sectors.

“It was pleasing to see international graduates working in a variety of graduate-level roles and with an impressive range of organisations, demonstrating the real opportunity the graduate route visa provides to graduates and employers alike,” the report stated.

It also found that a third of graduates were in job roles that feature in the skills shortages list.

However, with a quarter of respondents unemployed, AGCAS said there were many “disheartening tales” of people struggling to find roles because employers would not accept the graduate route as a valid right to work.

It called for a cross-government campaign to educate employers on immigration routes available for overseas students, and to remove the Immigration Skills Charge for switching an employee from the graduate to the skilled worker route.

“International graduates are ready to offer their talent, time, commitment and international knowledge to the UK economy, but many are facing barriers to employment based on their visa status”, Elaine Boyes, AGCAS executive director, said.

“The UK risks losing out on talented graduates if these barriers are not addressed.”

Ms Braverman previously said there were a “high number of students coming into this country”, who were not employed or were working in low-skilled jobs, after figures showed a rise in migration.

Her proposal of reducing the time that overseas students can stay in the UK after completing their courses is said to be “strongly opposed” by the Department for Education.

The AGCAS report says the graduate route should in fact be extended, if the UK is to “maintain its competitive advantage and protect its market share”.

Richard Brabner, director of the UPP Foundation which funded the research, said: “To maintain our global competitiveness it is incumbent on the government to work with universities and employers to ensure the UK is an attractive place to study and work.”

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Reader's comments (2)

" However, with a quarter of respondents unemployed, ..." The Home Office seem to have a point. What are and who are, the individuals without jobs? Why do employers not wish to take them on? What is different about them compared to those who are employed? What can Universities do to ensure their former students prosper and they and society benefit from the education and training provided ?
Your article really says alot, as an international student myself, looking for a placement while in school is really a difficult task, most organisation are currently demanding "full clean UK driving license"- whatever that means, just after spending 4months In the UK,isn't that ludicrous? There's a lot the home office can do to ameliorate our headaches, not to just go on a non-analytical hate rage that has no basis on reality. The bottom line: there is work to go round in the UK, it is just that organisations are putting barriers and regulations to stifle the process.