The United Kingdom has announced it will start offering work visas to graduates from the world’s top universities, aiming to attract the “best and brightest” workers.
Under the scheme announced on Monday, graduates with a bachelor’s or master’s degree from the top 50 universities abroad can apply for a two-year work visa, and those with doctorates can apply for a three-year visa.
They will be allowed to bring family members with them and be able to switch to longer-term employment visas, the government said.
Under the new scheme, applicants must have been awarded degrees no more than five years before the date of application.
Eligible universities must appear in the top 50 rankings of at least two of the following: the Times Higher Education world university rankings, the Academic Ranking of World Universities and the Quacquarelli Symonds world university rankings.
The most recent list of eligible universities from 2021, published online by the UK government, comprised more than two dozen US universities, as well as institutions in Canada, Japan, Germany, China, Singapore, France and Sweden.
The government said candidates must pass a security and criminality check, and be able to speak, read, listen and write English at an intermediate level.
Rishi Sunak, the finance minister, said the scheme would enable the UK to grow as an international hub for innovation, creativity, and entrepreneurship.
“We want the businesses of tomorrow to be built here today – which is why I call on students to take advantage of this incredible opportunity to forge their careers here,” Sunak said.
Graduates from these 37 top-ranked universities will be able to apply to come to the UK under a new "high potential individual" visa scheme. None from Africa, Latin America or South Asia. That’s a big problem.
— Phil Baty (@Phil_Baty) May 30, 2022
The new regulation was quickly criticised on social media for excluding universities from countries in the Global South, with users condemning the policy as “elitist”, “racist” and “lazy”.
Since leaving the European Union, the UK has ended the priority given to EU citizens and introduced a points-based immigration system that ranks applicants on everything from their qualifications and language skills to the type of job offered to them.
But the country has faced a tight labour market for several years – compounded by Brexit and COVID-19 – and companies in manufacturing, logistics and the food sector have urged the government to loosen the rules for entry-level jobs.