The visa would allow a wider range of employers to benefit from access to skilled graduates from around the world, making Newcastle 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 Newcastle making an annual contribution to the UK economy of more than £20bn.
Published by The Higher Education Policy Institute and Kaplan International Pathways, the report shows the impact to the UK of welcoming 231,000 new international students each year. The report indicates that International students contribute nearly £700m to the North East economy each year, supporting hundreds of jobs and businesses, with Newcastle East being one of the constituencies where international students make the greatest contribution.
Newcastle University is home to over 24,000 students from more than 130 different countries. It has the 20th largest international student population in the UK. Over 5,000 international students (excluding EU students) study at the University, bringing over £514 million of annual investment.
Professor Chris Day, Vice-Chancellor and President of Newcastle University, said, “Newcastle University strongly supports this proposal which we believe is an essential step to make Newcastle 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.
“International students are an integral part of the cultural, academic and social makeup of Newcastle and we are pleased to see that people in the North East recognise and value their contribution. The North East economy benefits significantly as international students generated £514 million in export earnings, and expenditure from these students supported 2,032 full-time equivalent jobs. One in every 66 international students in the UK is studying at Newcastle University and the city is a richer and more vibrant place due to their valued contribution."
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.
Data from the Institute of Student Employers shows that the starting salary for graduates in the North East, measured six months after graduation, is £20,884 – compared with £24,357 in London.
Professor Day added: “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. The new visa proposal will support us in our commitment to provide students with the best possible learning experience and opportunities for academic and professional development.”
The proposal has also been supported by the North East Chamber of Commerce, who represent business in the region.
Jonathan Walker, Assistant Director – Policy, North East England Chamber of Commerce, said, "Our members want to ensure that the North East 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. We are fortunate to have five excellent universities who work closely with the business community. The proposals for a new visa will help to retain talented graduates in the region, supporting business growth and boosting our reputation as a great place to build your career.”