British Visa Reform Needed to keep Attracting Hong Kong Students

Imperial College London president claims city’s students have enriched school’s community.

Hong Kong students make a meaningful contribution to British society and worldwide, the president of a top London university has said, as she calls for visa reforms to make it easier for students to remain after graduation.

Her remarks came as uncertainty about the British academic and research scene – and fears of an unwelcoming atmosphere after the Brexit vote – loom over international students considering higher education in a country long known for its high quality in the sector.

Professor Alice Gast, president of Imperial College London, spoke of how Hong Kong students had enriched the university’s community.

“It is no surprise that so many of our Hong Kong students go on to achieve great things that have an impact in the UK, Hong Kong and worldwide,” she told the Post in an interview last month.

Visa delays put Hong Kong students’ places at British universities in jeopardy

Imperial takes in around 250 Hong Kong students every year, a number Gast said had remained steady after the Brexit vote.

With the European Union and Britain still deadlocked over the union’s relationship with the country after it officially withdraws in 2019, higher education bodies in more than 20 European countries, including Britain, recently issued a statement warning the uncertainty is already causing problems. The associations called for urgent clarification on whether Britain would continue to be a part of European research after Brexit.

Prospective students are also concerned about an unwelcoming atmosphere after British Prime Minister Theresa May repeatedly rejected suggestions international students could be excluded from official migration figures. The British government is trying to meet its long-delayed target of reducing net migration to the tens of thousands.

Lesson to be learned from UK visa chaos hitting Hong Kong students

The graduate entrepreneur visa allows graduates to stay in Britain for a year after they leave university, with the possibility of another year extension if they have been endorsed as having a credible business idea. Currently, universities can grant about 20 such visas per year, which she said need to be increased.

Gast also suggested granting two years straight.

She also proposed extending a visa pilot scheme – which allows one-year master’s graduates at Imperial and three other universities to be granted an additional six months on their visa after their course ends – to other undergraduates and postgraduates.

The professor, a chemical engineer by training, also suggested increasing the time period of the doctorate extension scheme, which allows international PhD students to stay in Britain for one year after their studies, to three years for graduates from the so-called Stem subjects of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

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