The UK’s desire to becoming a leading scientific superpower has taken its first steps today, with the new Research and Development Roadmap being revealed by the Business Secretary Alok Sharma.


What are the key points of this plan?


  • Attracting and retaining global talents
  • Government to ensure UK is the best place in the world for scientists, researchers and entrepreneurs with new and ambitious R&D Roadmap.
  • Roadmap sets out vision to attract global talent, cut unnecessary bureaucracy and cement the UK as a world-leading science superpower.
  • significant £300 million government investment will upgrade scientific infrastructure across the UK.
  • new Office for Talent set up to make it easier for leading global scientists, researchers and innovators to come to the UK.

Attracting global talent


There will be a new graduate route in place to support this scheme by attracting the brightest and best minds from around the globe. Under the route, international students who complete a PhD degree will be granted 3-year PSW visa from Summer 2021. This means that they can stay in the UK for 3 years after study to live and work.


Previously, the Home Office has announced that students who have successfully completed undergraduate and master’s degrees will be granted 2-year PSW visa.


The above combined measures will make it easier for some of the best, young international graduates to secure skilled jobs in the UK and contribute to economic growth.


This can only be a good thing for the UK as a country, and for people looking to break into the scientific field of their choice after they complete their studies.


In addition, the announcement also indicates a shake-up of Tier 4, which will be relaunched as a “student route” this autumn. The ‘improved’ student route will have some extra benefits. For example, extending the window in which prospective students can make visa applications, removing study time limits at postgraduate level and allowing all students to switch to another type of visa from within the UK.


Existing students and those who start their course this autumn will benefit from these changes, once they have been introduced.


One thing to note is that all the graduates must graduate from an education provider which has a “track record of compliance”, in order to benefit from the new graduate route.


What does “track record of compliance” mean?


Essentially, it means that the universities have done everything above board when accepting foreign students into their ranks, and have passed a series of compliance assessments over a four-year period to gain the status of Higher Education Provider.


It is really an administrative issue, and it could be seen as very harsh if a student was unable to get onto this new graduate scheme due to their university not being seen as compliant by the government, as it is unlikely that the student would have any idea about this when choosing to attend that particular university.


Many possibilities


One of the best things about this Graduate visa, from the applicant’s point of view, is that the visa holder is allowed to take on any job at any skill level. They do not have to take a job in an academic field.


Also, once being granted PSW visa, migrants will be able to switch into “skilled work” at any time during its validity. In other words, they are likely to have an easier route to obtaining a Tier 2 (General) work visa, but will need to meet its skill and salary thresholds when they come to apply.


Unfortunately, time spent on the Graduate visa will not count towards settlement. Migrants will need to spend five further years as a Tier 2 (General) visa holder to qualify for indefinite leave to remain.


Of course, it is also worth to note that if they can qualify for 10 Years Continuous Lawful Residence, they can still apply to settle in the UK – even if they have not hold the Tier 2 Visa for the full 5 years.


All good, but…


This is clearly a great news to those international students studying in the UK. It will inevitably attract more talented students to come, study and stay here. It will enable them to get their foot in the UK job market much more easily. However, surely is it reasonable to exclude their time on PSW visas from their settlement residence eligibility if they immediately start working in this country?


Further, is the Home Office expecting all international students to carry out due diligence on universities’ compliance record with it before deciding which one to enrol with? In particular, when such record is rarely in public domain and difficult to find?


Instead of shifting the blame onto innocent students, it is our view that the Home Office should face up its duty by strengthen their monitoring of the register of Tier 4 sponsors and removing any one which has naughty record, so that they will not be able to sponsor international students.


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