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Government visa change a welcome move for STEM

11 Sep 2019

CaSE has welcomed today’s announcement that international students will be allowed to remain in the UK for two years after graduating to look for a job under a new two-year post-study work visa.

CaSE has long called for the reintroduction of an internationally competitive post-study work route for international students, featuring most recently in our recently published five point plan for science and engineering, and we’re delighted that the Government has responded in this way.

Commenting, CaSE Executive Director Dr Sarah Main said:

“This is terrific news. It will be a boost to the UK’s science and engineering economy, which attracts significant numbers of international students, by enabling students to move more easily in to the job market. This can only help innovation and discovery thrive in the UK.

Of course, we have yet to see how a new migration system will treat EU nationals wishing to study and work in science and engineering. I hope the Government will ensure the UK is a magnet for their talent also.

Having had a meagre offer for the last seven years, the UK has just returned to an internationally competitive offer for undergraduate and postgraduate students.

Some of the UK’s biggest R&D companies talk of the ‘war for talent’ in areas such as AI. The UK has just raised its game.”

The importance of today’s announcement

International students are a valuable asset to the UK and its universities in many ways. The 2015/16 cohort of international students will make a net economic contribution of over £20bn over the course of their studies. International students do not only provide great economic contributions to the UK, they also play a key role in supporting the provision of high-cost subjects, for example postgraduate engineering courses, making them viable for domestic students.

A third (32%) of international students in the UK in 2017 studied STEM-related subjects and most international students moving from a Tier 4 student visa to a Tier 2 work visa move into STEM or business-related jobs.

The market for international students has become increasingly competitive in recent years. The UK’s market share of international students has dropped from 14% in 2013 to 12% in 2016 , despite the actual number of international students coming to the UK increasing. The old Tier 1 Post-Study Work Visa was closed in 2012, shortening the length of time undergraduate students could stay in the UK from two years to four months before needing to transition to a Tier 2 work visa. The UK’s competitors, particularly other English-speaking countries, have enhanced their offer to international students to stay in the country after the completion of their studies. 

The US grants STEM students three years after the completion of their degree to work or continue their studies, while international students in Canada are automatically granted a three-year work permit if they spend at least two years in full-time education. Australian post-study work routes allow undergraduates to stay in the country for two years upon completion of their studies, while giving PhD students four years to remain.


  • Last month CaSE published its Five Point Plan, setting out five actions that the new Prime Minister can take in the first three months of his Premiership to harness the science and engineering potential of the UK.
  1. Attract Global Talent: Extend post-study work visa to 2 years 
  2. Set a long-term plan and a budget to reach 2.4% by 2027
  3. Harness the power of government to deliver the benefits of innovation faster
  4. Promote the UK overseas: Create a digital shop window for the UK innovation offer
  5. Increase the pool of available talent: monitor diversity data