What would UCU like to see?

International students and staff make a vibrant and valuable contribution to colleges and universities across the UK. However, recent public discourse about immigration has been overwhelmingly negative and divisive. UCU is calling on the next government to encourage a more constructive dialogue about the positive contribution which international staff and students make to our post-school education system.

International students should be removed from net migration targets and the government should work to promote the UK’s colleges and universities as welcoming places to study. Furthermore, colleges should be supported to help immigrants to acquire the language skills which they need to complete further learning and play a full part in society.

What is each party proposing?

Conservative Party

  • Review highly trusted visa status and clamp down on ‘satellite campuses’ opened in London by universities located elsewhere in the UK
  • Place more responsibility on visa sponsors, and introduce targeted sanctions for colleges that fail to ensure visa compliance
  • Require immigrants with only basic English to become more fluent over time, with new language tests for those seeking visa extension

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(170 votes. Average rating: 2.65 out of 10)

Green Party

  • Ensure no restrictions on foreign students and allow students to work in the UK for two years after graduation
  • Widen the Youth Mobility Scheme to allow those from poorer countries to participate
  • Provide free English classes for immigrants

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(197 votes. Average rating: 7.43 out of 10)

Labour Party

  • Tighten up the system for short-term student visas whilst welcoming overseas university students
  • Introduce full exit checks so that people can be counted in and out of the country

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(164 votes. Average rating: 4.58 out of 10)

Liberal Democrats

  • Reinstate post-study work visas for STEM graduates who can find graduate-level employment within six months of graduating
  • Separate students within overall migration statistics, while restoring entry and exit checks and taking tough action against any institution allowing abuse of the student visa route
  • Continue requirements for those with poor English to attend English language courses in order to secure Jobseekers’ Allowance

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(129 votes. Average rating: 4.62 out of 10)

Plaid Cymru

  • Reintroduce the post-study work visa for two years for students who have qualified from Welsh universities so that they can contribute to the Welsh economy
  • All people new to Wales to have the opportunity to learn both Welsh and English

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(100 votes. Average rating: 6.32 out of 10)

Scottish National Party

  • Seek reintroduction of the post-study work visa for 2 years following graduation

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(131 votes. Average rating: 6.42 out of 10)

UCU analysis

The parties’ policies on student immigration vary widely. Labour, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats all make reference to tightening up on abuse in the student visa system, with the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives both promising action against institutions which fail to ensure visa compliance. As part of this action the Conservatives would also limit the number of ‘satellite campuses’ operated by universities.

The Green Party, Plaid Cymru, Scottish Nationals and Liberal Democrats all advocate for the introduction of visas which allow graduates to work in the UK following graduation. For Plaid, this would appear to be limited to Welsh graduates taking employment in Wales, and the Liberal Democrats restrict their proposal to STEM graduates.

The Greens and Plaid Cymru propose that immigrants should have access to English (and Welsh) language learning. The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats also reference English language requirements relation to immigrants seeking visa extensions or Jobseekers’ Allowance. The Green Party also proposes an extension to the Youth Mobility Scheme to encourage more students from poorer countries to study in the UK.

None of the parties have proposed to remove students from the overall migration figures, although the Liberal Democrats have suggested that student numbers should be published separately within the statistics.

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