Working hours plan ‘sends mixed messages’ on overseas students

Reported proposal to let international students take on more part-time work criticised as ‘short-sighted’

January 27, 2023
Source: iStock

New plans to allow international students to work more part-time hours have been criticised by some of the UK’s most prestigious universities.

The Russell Group of research-intensive universities said the proposal – which comes just days after plans emerged to cut the length of the country’s post-study work visa – sends a mixed message and undermines the country’s reputation.

Ministers are exploring ways to encourage students to take on more part-time work to combat the country’s shortage of workers, The Times reported. They are reportedly considering upping the 20-hour limit of paid work per week that international students may undertake, or removing it altogether.

Such a move might make UK higher education a more attractive prospect to applicants, thus increasing the almost 700,000 learners from overseas who already study in the country.

But it comes just a few days after separate reports emerged that the home secretary, Suella Braverman, was considering cutting the post-study visa from two years to six months.

“Encouraging international students to work in restaurants while they study, but forcing them to go home again as soon as they’ve graduated with degrees our economy so badly needs is the very definition of short-sightedness,” said Tim Bradshaw, the Russell Group’s chief executive.

“Mixed messages like this from the government undermine our reputation as one of the best places in the world to study and are already deterring students from countries like India, where the government is trying to forge stronger economic links.”

Allowing international students to work longer hours would see the UK fall into line with Canada and Australia, which have both relaxed rules on part-time jobs in recent years.

The Times reported that universities were divided on the issue, with some seeing it as “positive news” for students given the cost-of-living crisis, and others wary of the harm it could do to students’ education.

Ms Braverman’s plans to reform the graduate visa route would also limit the overseas students allowed to bring dependants with them to only those on postgraduate courses that are at least two years’ long.

Universities UK warned that this would have a “significant negative” financial impact on the UK.

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