Home Education & Learning Over 26,000 Graduates Switch to UK Care Jobs in 2023 Visa Shift

Over 26,000 Graduates Switch to UK Care Jobs in 2023 Visa Shift

Published: Last updated:
Reading Time: 3 minutes

The UK has recently witnessed a significant rise in the number of international students transitioning from graduate visas to skilled worker visas, with a notable influx into the care sector. This trend, highlighted by the Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford, raises critical questions about the impact of the country’s visa policies and the broader implications for the UK’s workforce dynamics.

In 2023, a striking shift was observed, with over 26,000 overseas graduates entering the care sector, a notable increase from previous years. This surge aligns with the government’s inclusion of care roles in the skilled occupation shortage list in early 2022, designed to address labour shortfalls. The relaxation of visa rules, particularly the expansion of jobs eligible under skilled worker visas, has facilitated this transition.

But the influx of overqualified international graduates into the care sector, often holding master’s degrees in fields such as business, engineering, and computer science, has led to concerns about skill utilisation and long-term career prospects. The situation poses a conundrum for both the individuals involved and the UK’s strategy in managing skilled migration.

The graduate route, introduced in summer 2021, permits international students to stay in the UK for work, usually for up to two years, with an option to switch to long-term skilled work visas. The data shows that in the 12 months to June 2023, about 62% of those switching from the graduate route to skilled worker visas entered care work, up from 27% the previous year.

Ben Brindle, a researcher at the Migration Observatory, notes the striking disparity between the qualifications of these students and the requirements of their new roles in care. This trend suggests that while some might have a genuine interest in care work, others view it as a practical pathway to extend their stay in the UK.

These developments come amid concerns that the government’s review of the graduate visa could threaten its viability, potentially impacting the higher education sector and the care industry. The Migration Advisory Committee has previously reported that many overseas graduates end up in low-wage jobs, highlighting the complex interplay between migration policy and labour market outcomes.

The rise in the number of international students staying in the UK is likely to contribute more to net migration than in previous years. However, the data suggests that it’s the care route, not the graduate route, driving this change. This raises critical questions about the future of net migration and the role of the care sector in shaping these trends.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s efforts to control net migration, particularly after it hit a record high in 2022, are complicated by these developments. The high number of international students opting for care roles opens up the possibility of longer-term residence in the UK, potentially influencing net migration figures over time.

The Migration Advisory Committee is set to review the graduate visa route soon as part of broader efforts to manage net migration. Home Secretary James Cleverly emphasises the need to ensure that the graduate route aligns with the UK’s broader interests.

Brian Bell, head of the MAC, highlights the dilemma faced by policymakers. Reducing net migration by limiting sectors like social care and education could have far-reaching consequences for those sectors’ vitality and the economy at large.

The shift towards care jobs presents both pros and cons. While some students may miss opportunities to develop skills acquired during their degrees, their entry into the care sector could bring benefits. According to Madeleine Sumption, director of the Migration Observatory, former students with better language skills and local knowledge might be less vulnerable to exploitation, a significant issue in the care sector.

The Home Office maintains that its policies strike a balance between reducing net migration and ensuring vital sectors like the NHS and care have access to necessary workers. The planned review of the graduate route aims to prevent abuse and uphold the integrity of UK higher education.

© Copyright 2014–2034 Psychreg Ltd