The University of Essex and business leaders are backing calls for a new visa to allow qualified international students to work in skilled jobs for a period after graduation.
The visa would allow a wider range of employers to benefit from access to skilled graduates from around the world, making Essex a more attractive destination for international students, while supporting the local economy and businesses.
According to Universities UK, the move would allow the UK to compete with other popular destinations such as Australia and Canada who have more welcoming student visa policies.
Recent studies have shown the significant contribution international students make to regions across Britain, including Essex, making an annual contribution to the UK economy of more than £20 billion (HEPI report).
The University of Essex has more than 15,000 students drawn from 140 countries and close to a quarter of these students are international students from outside the European Union. The latest HEPI economic impact study suggests the economic impact of international students in the East of England is £1.3 billion.
Vice-Chancellor of the University of Essex Professor Anthony Forster said: “We strongly support this proposal which we believe is an essential step to making the Eastern region and the rest of the UK as attractive as possible to the international students and graduates who make such a vital contribution to our community and economy.
"We are a truly global community at Essex with staff and students drawn from more than 140 countries. We know our international students bring not only investment, but skills and perspectives which are valued by UK students and employers. Sending out a strong message that Essex and the UK are open to global talent makes sense for everyone."
Under the new visa proposal, universities would be able to sponsor graduates to search for and gain work experience in the UK for up to two years. This would be on a more flexible basis than currently permitted, without restrictions on job level or salary, and without an employer sponsorship requirement. This would encourage international graduates to live and work in cities where average wages are lower than London, but where their skills and continued contribution to the local economy makes a real difference.
The proposal has also been supported by business leaders. Denise Rossiter, Chief Executive of Essex Chambers of Commerce, said:
"It is very important to the future prosperity of Essex that the UK has a globally competitive offer to international students who make such an important contribution to our local economy and to the skills businesses need to trade and win orders around the world. Making the UK and Essex more attractive to these talented young people is a win-win approach and will secure this vital inward investment for local industry and people."
For more information, please contact the University of Essex on Tel: 01206 872400.