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Home Secretary Sajid Javid has backed calls to lift post-study work restrictions for international students in the UK, which would enable graduates to stay in Britain for up to 2-years post-graduation.
He may not be about to become the UK’s next prime minister, but Sajid Javid may be about to help introduce a reform that could further increase the UK’s intake of international students.
As part of his campaign to become the next leader of the Conservative party (and, subsequently, the UK’s new prime minister), the Home Secretary backed calls from universities, academics and the former universities minister to extend the post-study visa length from six months to two years.
In 2012, the post-study work visa was reduced from two years to four months as part of wider government reforms. This was then marginally extended in early 2019 to six months.
Clearly, international students were undeterred; over the last decade overseas student numbers in the UK have risen by 70%. Nevertheless, ever since its introduction there have been calls from politicians and universities to reverse the legislation to once again enable international students to remain in Britain for up to two years upon the completion of their studies.
Writing in the Financial Times, Mr Javid agreed the post-study visa rules should be reformed, and said he planned to implement an amendment tabled by former universities minister Jo Johnson to give international students the option of a new two-year post-study visa.
“It makes no sense to send some of the world’s brightest and most enterprising people straight home after their time here,” explained Mr Javid.
“So as prime minister I would make Mr Johnson’s plan government policy.
“I want to put skilled Britons in the same room as bright Europeans and those from other nations — in Manchester, Leeds and London, not Paris or Stockholm.”
Although Mr Javid was eventually knocked out of the Conservative leadership race, his campaign did underline the standing he holds within the governing party, meaning that he should be an influential figure in the government led by the next prime minister.
His comments were met with wide-scale approval, not least from the Russell Group of elite UK universities.
And, as a former Housing Secretary, Mr Javid is also only too acutely aware of the impact rising international student numbers is already having on the UK’s undersupplied purpose-built student accommodation (PBSA) sector.
Despite there being 1.7 million students in the UK, 23% of which are from overseas, in 2017/18 just 602,000 PBSA units were in operation. At a time when local councils in key university cities, such as the one in Cardiff, are actively reducing the number of properties in other real estate sectors operating as homes for students, the importance of PBSA has never been greater.
Should any change in post-study working visa rules encourage more of the world’s best students to choose a UK education, student property investors already achieving high returns on their investments will be hopeful of even greater gains if demand for their properties were to rise further still.
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