Universities and business representatives in Sheffield back call for new work visa for international students


Universities and businesses in Sheffield are backing calls for a new visa to allow qualified international students to work in skilled jobs for a period after graduation.

The visa would allow a wider range of employers to benefit from access to skilled graduates from around the world, making Sheffield a more attractive destination for international students, while supporting the local economy and businesses.

According to Universities UK, the move would allow the UK to compete with other popular destinations such as Australia and Canada who have more welcoming student visa policies.

Recent studies have shown the significant contribution international students make to towns and cities across Britain, including Sheffield, making an annual contribution to the UK economy of more than £20bn.

A Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) analysis found that the 2,456 international students who started their studies in the Sheffield Central constituency in 2015/16 will contribute £226 million each year to the economy during their studies – equivalent to £1,961 per constituent per annum in the constituency.

Professor Sir Keith Burnett, President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sheffield, and Professor Sir Chris Husbands, Vice-Chancellor of Sheffield Hallam University, said: "The University of Sheffield and Sheffield Hallam University strongly support this proposal which we believe is an essential step to make Sheffield, and the whole of the UK, more attractive to the international students and graduates who make such a vital contribution to our community and economy.

"In an increasingly globalised world, we know also that these students and graduates bring not only investment, but skills and perspectives which are valued by UK students and local employers. Sending out a strong message that Sheffield is a welcoming city, which is open to global talent, makes sense for everyone."

Under the new visa proposal, universities would be able to sponsor graduates to search for and gain work experience in the UK for up to two years. This would be on a more flexible basis than currently permitted, without restrictions on job level or salary, and without an employer sponsorship requirement. This would encourage international graduates to live and work in cities where average wages are lower than London, but where their skills and continued contribution to the local economy makes a real difference.

The proposal has also been supported by civic and business leaders in Sheffield. Speaking on behalf of Sheffield Chamber of Commerce, its Executive Director Richard Wright said: "It is very important to the future prosperity of Sheffield that the UK has a globally competitive offer to international students who make such an important contribution to our local economy and to the skills businesses need to trade and win orders around the world.

“Making the UK and Sheffield more attractive to these talented young people is a win-win approach and will secure this vital inward investment for local industry and people."

In a film, developed by the UK-wide #WeAreInternational campaign led by the University of Sheffield, business owners and leaders have shared their stories of how the city’s vibrant community of around 10,000 international students has had a positive impact on Sheffield.

In it, Mark Parsons, co-founder of Studio Polpo Architects, emphasised the vital contribution of student skills to the city’s economy and the jobs and affluence which are then shared by the whole community: “There’s such a lot to be gained from international students in terms of their experience and their knowledge. I think it’s often underexplored what these students bring in life experiences, the different things they’ve done and the different ways of working from their home countries.”

The University of Sheffield and its Students’ Union founded the #WeAreInternational campaign, which is supported by hundreds of universities, businesses and organisations globally, to celebrate the rich contribution international students bring to the UK and is urging the government to support them in word and deed.

In June 2016, Sheffield’s universities, college, MPs and city leaders united to send out a strong message that Sheffield is a global city which warmly welcomes students from all over the world by signing a joint statement of support.

Additional information

1. Under this proposed visa, all higher education institutions registered as Tier 4 sponsors would be able to sponsor their graduates to search for and gain work experience in the UK for up to two years on a more flexible basis than currently permitted by the Tier 2 visa, without restrictions on job level or salary, and without an employer sponsorship requirement. Universities would have the flexibility to manage the licence for the new visa system separately from their Tier 4 licence

2. Currently, students must find a job with a salary of at least £20,800 at an employer with a Tier 2 sponsor licence within four months of completing their course, or find sponsorship as an entrepreneur. PhD students are separately able to stay for up to 12 months following completion of their degree. This new, proposed visa would give international graduates a longer period to search for a Tier 2 eligible role.

3. Australia, Canada, the US and New Zealand all offer international graduates the opportunity to stay and work for at least a year following graduation. The US and Canada offers up to three years and Australia up to four years, depending on the subject and qualification studied and length of original degree; New Zealand has recently announced changes which will allow graduates to stay for up to three years. In all four countries, this includes periods of job searching and there are no restrictions on the types of employers graduates can work for.

4. In 2011, under the previous Tier 1 Post Study Work visa, the numbers of students transferring into work visas was 46,875. Following the 2012 changes, that that fell in 2013 to just 6,238. We would expect similar proportions of students to want to stay and transfer into this visa were they to have the opportunity to do so. In 2010-11 there were 134,520 non-EU students who qualified, so around 35% of them chose to use Tier 1 or Tier 2 to transfer into work. If we use the 2016-17 data (the latest we have) to model what could happen with the new visa, we’d expect around 54,000 (35% of non-EU graduates in that year) to take up the opportunity.

The University of Sheffield

With almost 29,000 of the brightest students from over 140 countries, learning alongside over 1,200 of the best academics from across the globe, the University of Sheffield is one of the world’s leading universities.

A member of the UK’s prestigious Russell Group of leading research-led institutions, Sheffield offers world-class teaching and research excellence across a wide range of disciplines.

Unified by the power of discovery and understanding, staff and students at the university are committed to finding new ways to transform the world we live in.

Sheffield is the only university to feature in The Sunday Times 100 Best Not-For-Profit Organisations to Work For 2018 and for the last eight years has been ranked in the top five UK universities for Student Satisfaction by Times Higher Education.

Sheffield has six Nobel Prize winners among former staff and students and its alumni go on to hold positions of great responsibility and influence all over the world, making significant contributions in their chosen fields.
Global research partners and clients include Boeing, Rolls-Royce, Unilever, AstraZeneca, Glaxo SmithKline, Siemens and Airbus, as well as many UK and overseas government agencies and charitable foundations.


For further information please contact:

Hannah Postles
Media Relations Officer
The University of Sheffield
0114 222 1046