By Mustakim Hasnath
The Russell Group of universities has warned the Government that continued uncertainty regarding the intake of foreign workers and students after Brexit raises “serious problems for employers in Britain”.
The group are calling on the Government to introduce a new ‘European Skills Permit’ for qualified workers and students to continue attracting European talent and rebuild public confidence in the immigration system.
These proposals come after the group of universities shared concerns about the current Government policy. It means that the freedom of movement for European Economic Area (EEA) migrants will end when the transition phase of Brexit concludes in December, 2020.
Consequently, this means a new immigration system will be needed for these migrants to come into the country.
According to a study conducted by Universities UK, between 2015-16, the proportion of students from the EEA studying in UK universities equated to 5.9% of the national student body.
At Cardiff University alone, HESE data for 2016-2017 shows 4.6% of students are from the EEA.
European migrants bring numerous benefits to the UK’s knowledge economy, including the opportunity to allow for the growth of industries, as well as contributing to the world-leading research.
Under the proposed ‘European Skills Permit’ policy, successful EEA applicants will have a place at an accredited institution or bring a research grant to the UK, as a student. Others would have the right to work or study in the UK for up to five years.
While the Permit is initially for students and skilled workers, the group have added that it may be expanded to support scarcity of lower-skilled workers in areas where employers face clear shortages.
Proponents of this permit claim that it would help boost the country’s knowledge economy at a time when it is most needed, not only helping institutions such as those in The Russell Group, but in businesses too.
Russell Group Chief, Executive Dr Tim Bradshaw said: “As things stand, skilled Europeans considering coming here in the next few years face a visa vacuum and may head elsewhere, while the UK misses out”.
Currently, The Home Office issues Tier 2 visas for skilled workers and Tier 4 visas for students, monitoring visa compliance and reporting changes in an individual’s circumstances to be updated frequently. Bradshaw mentioned that the rules have become increasingly complicated.
The Confederation of British Industry has stressed that the Tier 2 system is: “prohibitively complex, time consuming and expensive process to navigate”. Instead, The Russell Group are urging the Government to explore a secure system of digital, personalised accounts, which could be integrated with Government databases such as HMRC, Home Office and Border Force records.