Some of the most acclaimed individuals from the arts – spanning film, fashion, fine art, design, drama, dance and music – have studied in the UK. Not only that, but we have also allowed them to stay on and work after their studies, enriching the cultural life of the UK. However, this is at risk as a result of the UK government’s approach to immigration.
International students currently have to earn a minimum salary of £20,800 (considerably more in some professions) to qualify for a work visa after their studies. They must also be employed by a single employer. These requirements do not reflect the reality of the creative and cultural industries, and we support the former universities minister David Willetts and the all-party parliamentary group on migration, who both say that greater flexibility is needed.
Whatever the makeup of the next government, it must think again about the UK’s immigration policy. The rethink should begin with the removal of students from any immigration target set for the next parliament and an increase in opportunities for qualified international graduates to remain in the UK once they finish their degree. Otherwise, if we do not act, we risk losing a generation of talented individuals to our competitors.