The new student policy

In March 2011, the UK government announced changes to its immigration policy that are expected to cut the number of foreign students in Britain by 25%. The changes, however, are not expected to reduce the number of international MBA students or to exert any significant impact on the opportunities for foreign graduates in business education to pursue a career in the UK, as they aim to ensure that Britain welcomes the best overseas students to make a contribution, which is also the target of business schools that provide post-graduate business education. The goal of the new student policy is to strengthen immigration control and to protect legitimate students from poor quality colleges, as Home Secretary Theresa May explained. “My aim is not to stop genuine students coming here. It is to eliminate abuse within the system,” she said.

How will the UK’s visa reforms affect an international MBA

Most of the changes in the UK student visa system will have no impact on MBA students, in line with the government’s purpose of not preventing genuine students from coming to the UK. Almost all business schools already request evidence of financial means to study and high-level English language skills, which the government now also requires. The five-year limit on the time allowed as a student in the UK should not bother MBA students, as no MBA programmes last more than five years.

The major point for MBA students is the closure of the Tier 1 Post-Study Work (PSW) visa programme, which enabled non-EEA graduates to work in the UK for up to two years after graduation. MBA graduates, however, are now allowed to switch to Tier 2 visas for sponsored skilled workers within six months after graduation, which should not be a serious problem as most non-EU graduates who wish to work in the UK usually find a job within three months of graduation. In support of its goal of drawing the best international students who can make a vital contribution to the British economy, the government has alleviated the Tier 2 visa conditions for MBA graduates, who are now exempt from the annual quota of 20 700. Another advantage in the new policy is that an employer willing to hire a business school graduate for a skilled job under the Tier 2 visa conditions does not need to include a Resident Labour Market Test, which is designed to show that no one in the EEA can do the job. Moreover, MBA students on courses longer than 11 months are allowed working visas for their dependents.

“We are delighted that the UK will continue to offer excellent opportunities for high calibre international students to work and build a career in the UK after graduation, with considerably better opportunities than other European countries including France, Spain, Italy and also the US,” Manchester Business School states on its website.

Slow but sustained recovery in the graduate labour market

Although the recession adversely affected the UK graduate job market, most graduates continue to find employment and the majority of those in work find graduate-level jobs. The 2011 edition of "What Do Graduates Do?", the most recent survey of Britain's Higher Education Careers Services Unit, indicated that the number of unemployed graduates has fallen for the first time since the recession. The report, which tells us what activities UK-domiciled graduates were doing six months after graduating in 2009/10, showed that graduate unemployment fell to 8.5% from 8.9%, while graduate employment was at 69.7% with a record number of 100 265 university leavers finding graduate level jobs six months after graduating, 9.2% more than in 2009. Cuts in public spending affected the job market, with falls in the number of graduates securing roles in local government, public administration and the defence sector, but the private sector managed to buffer the loss in employment opportunities within the public sector.