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New U.K. Visa Aims to Attract Graduates of Top-Ranked Universities

Britain has opened a new visa pathway for “high potential individuals” that aims to draw graduates from the world’s top-ranked universities to come to work in the United Kingdom.

Some academics, however, say the system is inherently unfair because it relies on international university rankings that tend to disfavour institutions in poor countries, including most of the Arab region.

The new High Potential Individual (HPI) visa pathway took effect on May 30. The British government has said it will attract the “brightest and best” early in their careers, the BBC reported.

Some academics have criticised the new visa pathway as “a deeply inequitable approach.” No Arab or African universities qualified for the plan.

The programme is open to graduates of highly rated universities outside the United Kingdom who received their degrees in the past five years. Applicants from all countries are eligible, and they will not need a job offer in order to apply.

Successful applicants will be given a work visa lasting two years if they hold a bachelor’s or master’s degree, and three years if they hold a Ph.D. They will later be able to switch to other long-term employment visas if they meet certain additional requirements. There will be no cap on the number of eligible graduates who can be accepted.

37 Universities Make the List 

To qualify, a person must have attended a non-U.K. university that appeared in the top 50 of at least two of the three best-known international rankings:

The government has published a list 37 global universities that meet those conditions for graduates earning degrees awarded between 1 November 2021 and 31 October 2022.

Twenty U.S. universities made the list, including Harvard, Yale, and Stanford Universities, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Four other universities in English-speaking countries qualified, including three in Canada and one in Australia.

The new visa offer will allow the United Kingdom to “continue to attract the best and brightest from across the globe.”

Rishi Sunak Britain’s chancellor of the exchequer

Among the 13 other qualifying institutions, eight were in Asia (two each in China, Hong Kong, Japan and Singapore) and five were in Europe (two in Switzerland, and one each in France, Germany and Sweden).

No South Asian, Latin American, Arab or African universities qualified, leading some academics to call the plan “a deeply inequitable approach.”

One researcher at the University of Cape Town told the BBC it was disappointing that the plan failed to recognise and include the “diverse skills and in-depth knowledge held by many graduates from universities in developing countries.”

Costs and Other Requirements 

According to the BBC, the visa will cost £715 plus an immigration health surcharge. In addition, applicants will have to have maintenance funds of at least £1,270.

Applicants will also have to pass security screening and demonstrate proficiency in English.

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The HPI Visa pathway is part of government plans for the United Kingdom to play a major role in addressing world challenges, such as energy access, climate change, and pandemics.

In a news release, Rishi Sunak, chancellor of the exchequer, said the new visa offer will allow the United Kingdom to “continue to attract the best and brightest from across the globe.” It also “means that the U.K. will grow as a leading international hub for innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship,” he added.

“We want the businesses of tomorrow to be built here today,” Sunak said, “which is why I call on students to take advantage of this incredible opportunity to forge their careers here.”

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