The University of Suffolk and its Students' Union fear that calls by the Home Secretary to cut or restrict the graduate visa route will cause a drastic fall in international recruitment. 

James Cleverly has written a letter to the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC), asking them to investigate the graduate route visa. 

This visa allows international students to work in the UK for two or three years after graduating from their university, without a sponsor. 

The Home Secretary's letter to MAC said that this visa was failing to attract “the brightest and the best” to the UK, and added that it was “undermining the integrity and quality of the UK higher education system”.

Ipswich Star: James Cleverly calls for review of graduate route visaJames Cleverly calls for review of graduate route visa (Image: PA)

However, University leaders were quick to refute the statement and say that the graduate route visa attracts students to the universities and universities are dependent on those fees. 

The University of Suffolk has over 1,200 international students.

A spokesperson said: "Our international students are a really important part of our student body, and we can see how enriching having a diverse community of students is for both UK and international learners.

“It is not a cheap option for students to come to the UK to study. Many have to use their own or family savings to do so as a way to improve their employment and life prospects in a way that may not be possible in their home country, and our courses are designed to ensure students are job-ready upon graduating."

The university believes that they must support international students and take pride in the diversity they have on their campuses. 

Since the Graduate route was established, a total of 175,872 visas have been granted.

Mr Cleverly's statement sets out that students are driven to this visa by the opportunity to obtain a job and remain in the UK, rather than for the value of the qualification.

He believes that the students are hence abusing the route. 

Ipswich Star: The University of Suffolk believes that such a call to reduce the international student intake, which the University depends on.The University of Suffolk believes that such a call to reduce the international student intake, which the University depends on. (Image: Newsquest)

Krish Sampat, an international student at the University of Suffolk said: "It's weird to see those comments because I thought the point of the visa was to give us students time to find a job that sponsors us.

"At the moment it seems like, the government wants us to come in, pay to be here, and then leave without getting anything in return."

Krish also pointed out how the recent increase in Immigrant Health Surcharge, restrictions to dependants and increase in visa fees, have all made it harder for students to study in the UK. 

His point was also emphasised by the University of Suffolk, who said that they have seen a significant drop in interest from international students from several countries because of those legislations. 

So far this year, enrolments from overseas have fallen by 40% compared with 2023.

Ipswich Star:

Ipswich Star: President of Education at the University of Suffolk Students' Union, Lewis WoolstonPresident of Education at the University of Suffolk Students' Union, Lewis Woolston (Image: Brighten The Corners)

The Students' Union's President of Education Lewis Woolston and President of Activities and Culture Katie Pickard also published a joint statement saying the remarks "disheartened them". 

They said that there are multiple factors including the rising cost of living and housing issues that make the UK an unattractive place for international students to come study.

However, they add: "We should celebrate and champion our International Students, offering them the support they deserve, rather than subjecting them to condemnation and further restrictions on their educational pursuits."

Mr Cleverly said that just 23% of international students using the skilled workers route moved into graduate-level jobs and that last year only a third moved into jobs paying more than £26,000 a year.

The Home Secretary has asked the MAC to publish a full review of the visa in question by May 14.