A government minister has backed a call from Universities UK, higher education’s representative body, for post-study visas for international students in the country.

Sam Gyimah MP, the universities minister, has backed the programme which would allow international students to gain work experience in the UK for up to two years after graduation.

UUK say the new visa would make the UK a more attractive proposition to international graduates, allowing it to compete with countries such as the United States and Australia.

The plan was announced by UUK at their annual conference in Sheffield this week. Gyimah also backed the plan while speaking at the conference.

Professor Dame Janet Beer, President of Universities UK and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Liverpool, said: “It would send a more welcoming message to international students and signal that the UK is open to talented individuals from around the world.

“As Brexit discussions continue, the UK needs an ambitious immigration policy that helps boost our regional and global competitiveness.”

Data from the UUK suggests that 35 per cent of non-EU graduates would take up the offer of a post-study visa, which would make up around 54,000 students.

In 2012, a similar visa which allowed non-EU students to stay in the UK and work for up to two years was scrapped by the Government.

The plan has also been backed by Paul Blomfield, the MP for Sheffield Central, who said: “UK recruitment has flat lined, while the US, Canada and Australia have increased numbers by 20 per cent over the last few years. Offering a post study work visa has been central to their success.

“We need to catch up and, at the same time, give local businesses the chance to benefit from the talents of our international graduates. This new visa will boost jobs in Sheffield.”

Blomfield’s constituency is home to more students than any other in the country, and he is also the chair of the all-party Parliamentary group on international students. He is also a shadow Brexit minister.

Professor Sir Keith Burnett, President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sheffield, welcomed the minister’s support for the proposal.

He said: “We are delighted that the Minister has welcomed the important proposal from Universities UK on post-study work, a crucial issue for students across the UK and for the universities and cities in which they study.

“Our global research, staff and students underpin the ability of UK universities to play the active civic role the Minister also described, so we are pleased to see this being publicly reflected by government at this milestone conference.”

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