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Graduate Visas – Letters to the Home Secretary and Shadow Home Secretary

16 May 2024

Today we have written to the Home Secretary, the Rt Hon James Cleverly MP, and the Shadow Home Secretary, the Rt Hon Yvette Cooper MP, stating our strong support for the graduate visa route.

Universities are the cornerstone of R&D in the UK and they must have a sustainable financial model across both their teaching and research activities. The recent report by the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) has agreed with CaSE’s position on the risk to research from further changes to the UK immigration system that would discourage international students from coming to the UK.

Changes to immigration rules for international students cannot be considered in isolation and must be part of a wider conversation about university financial sustainability. Otherwise our world-class research base is at serious risk.

CaSE Briefing: International talent is crucial if the UK is to achieve its research intensity ambitions

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Letter to the Rt Hon James Cleverly MP, Secretary of State for the Home Department

16 May 2024

Dear Mr Cleverly,

We strongly encourage you to accept the recommendations of the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) on the Graduate route. If the Government intends to restrict the international student population in the UK, then it is imperative that other measures be urgently introduced to mitigate the financial impact on our research-intensive universities.

The Government’s ambition for the UK to become a science and technology superpower is one that we strongly support, and we welcome the Prime Ministers statement on 13 May that he wants to “make science and technology our new national purpose”. To achieve these aims, the UK’s universities must be at their best. In towns and cities across the UK, these institutions are doing the cutting-edge research that will improve people’s lives and livelihoods, create new jobs and future industries, and drive the economic growth that will pay for our public services.

There has been recent focus on the financial pressures facing universities, and these could be exacerbated by the changes to immigration rules making foreign students less likely to come to the UK. Universities must achieve a sustainable financial model across both their teaching and research activities.

As highlighted by the MAC report, cross-subsidy of research from teaching budgets is common, especially from international student fees, and shortfalls in funds for teaching provision would affect the amount of money available for research. This would be a substantial sum: Universities invested £5.6bn to research in 2021. It is concerning that the MAC stated that “we have had no indication in our discussion with Ministers … that there is any plan in place to address this structural under-funding [of Universities]”.

Universities already report a reduction in international applications, with recent immigration policy changes serving as a deterrent and reducing overseas student numbers. Any policy change to the Graduate route intended to reduce student numbers must explain how the financial consequences for the sector would be addressed to ensure that world-leading research is not adversely affected, and that the Government will continue meet its ambitions for the UK to be a “science superpower.”

About CaSE

The Campaign for Science and Engineering (CaSE) works to put science and engineering at the heart of the UK’s future. By offering responsive and non-partisan solutions, we aim to help research and innovation thrive in a way that improves people’s lives and livelihoods. We are an independent, membership body representing over 110 scientific organisations including businesses, universities, learned societies, and research charities as well as individual scientists and engineers.

We will be publishing this letter and any response we receive on our website. I have enclosed a recent briefing we published on immigration policy for R&D.

Yours sincerely,

Alicia Greated, Executive Director of the Campaign for Science and Engineering

Letter to the Rt Hon Yvette Cooper MP, Shadow Secretary of State for the Home Department

16 May 2024

Dear Ms Cooper,

We strongly encourage you to push the Government to accept the recommendations of the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) on the Graduate route. If the Government intends to restrict the international student population in the UK, then it is imperative that other measures be urgently introduced to mitigate the financial impact on our research-intensive universities.

The Labour Party’s 5 missions for the UK will all need to be underpinned by research and development to succeed and as Rachel Reeves has said, success in UK strengths like life sciences relies on “universities that are dynamos of innovation”.  Therefore, the UK’s universities must be at their best. In towns and cities across the UK, these institutions are doing the cutting-edge research that will improve people’s lives and livelihoods, create new jobs and future industries, and drive the economic growth that will pay for our public services.

There has been recent focus on the financial pressures facing universities, and these could be exacerbated by the changes to immigration rules making foreign students less likely to come to the UK. Universities must achieve a sustainable financial model across both their teaching and research activities.

As highlighted by the MAC report, cross-subsidy of research from teaching budgets is common, especially from international student fees, and shortfalls in funds for teaching provision would affect the amount of money available for research. This would be a substantial sum: Universities invested £5.6bn to research in 2021. It is concerning that the MAC stated that “we have had no indication in our discussion with Ministers … that there is any plan in place to address this structural under-funding [of Universities]”.

Universities already report a reduction in international applications, with recent immigration policy changes serving as a deterrent and reducing overseas student numbers. We strongly urge you to oppose any further policy changes designed to reduce international student numbers. Furthermore, any policy changes that are made must explain how the financial consequences for the sector would be addressed to ensure that world-leading research is not adversely affected. We welcome you holding the Government to account on this issue.

About CaSE

The Campaign for Science and Engineering (CaSE) works to put science and engineering at the heart of the UK’s future. By offering responsive and non-partisan solutions, we aim to help research and innovation thrive in a way that improves people’s lives and livelihoods. We are an independent, membership body representing over 110 scientific organisations including businesses, universities, learned societies, and research charities as well as individual scientists and engineers.

We will be publishing this letter and any response we receive on our website. I have enclosed a recent briefing we published on immigration policy for R&D.

Yours sincerely,

Alicia Greated, Executive Director of the Campaign for Science and Engineering