Foreign students would be expelled from UK as soon as they complete their degrees

The UK home secretary Theresa May plans to back a proposal that would force foreign graduates to leave the country as soon as they have finished studying. May’s backing appears to be at odds with the government’s science and innovation strategy, which was released last week. Under the current system, students are permitted to stay in the UK for up to four months after the end of their degree and switch to a work visa if they find a graduate level job.

The science strategy has already drawn criticism from scientific bodies for its lack of clarity on the future of R&D funding but May’s proposal has raised major concerns in the scientific community. Under the new proposal, which is being considered for the Conservative Party’s manifesto, the Home Office would expel foreign graduates whose student visas have expired following the completion of their degree. Upon returning to their country of origin, the ‘brightest and best’ would be permitted to apply for a work visa.

Sarah Main, director of the Campaign for Science and Engineering, said in a statement: ‘Forcing students to apply for a work visa [after being expelled] would … risk turning the best and brightest away from the UK.’ Others, such as Stephen Curry from Imperial College London, UK, claim the plans would contradict the goals set out in the science and innovation strategy. Curry told the BBC in a statement that the proposal was ‘kind of thoughtless’.