According to PIE News, the government of the United Kingdom is considering extending the amount of time that international students are permitted to work while attending university in order to meet the country's need for workers.
According to a statement in The Times, ministers intend to increase the work week limit from 20 hours to 40 hours. According to reports, the government is debating whether to increase it to 30 hours or eliminate it entirely.
Britain is considering increasing student work hours
This proposal, which comes at a time when the minister is focusing on student work hour limits in the UK and ensuring the economy continues to grow, is closely aligned with the strategies of Canada and Australia.
The reports come in the same week that Home Secretary Suella Braverman proposed plans to reduce the time required to obtain a higher education route visa from the current two years to six months of post-study work. This indicates an apparent conflict between the two departments' proposed policies.
Another source told The Times that ministries were looking into "what else we can do to remove barriers and encourage students to work" in terms of working extended hours. This is one of several options for dealing with the growing number of job openings.
The United Kingdom is experiencing a labor shortage, which has been exacerbated by Brexit and increased levels of financial passivity as a result of the epidemic.
Because of the large number of vacant positions, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt has stated that he intends to increase the size of the labor force to help combat inflation.
The Department of Work and Pensions is "considering a range of issues to combat inactivity," according to a spokesman for the department who spoke to The PIE on its behalf.
They stated that more information about this matter will be provided at the appropriate time and added, "We wouldn't comment on speculation before the Workforce Participation review is completed."
The reduction in the graduate path has been strongly criticized by university stakeholders and some members of Braverman's party.
Both the Departments of Education and International Trade are expected to oppose the proposal to reduce the time required to obtain a work visa after completing a course of study.
Former Home Secretary Priti Patel publicly expressed her support for the graduate route on Wednesday, saying she is a "big believer" in the program.
Last week, the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for International Students wrote to ministers, urging them to "maximise" the potential of the UK's education exports sector by making a few changes.
The statement stated that the Home Office must engage in cross-departmental collaboration to "truly make the international education strategy a success," and that the Home Office has a "key role to play" in ensuring that the student visa system in the United Kingdom remains competitive with systems in other English-speaking markets.
According to another Times article, Braverman is likely to be sceptical of any measures that could make student visas more appealing to international applicants.
Furthermore, it was stated that the Home Office could use the idea of extending work time while studying as a bargaining chip in order to have other plans to limit the number of international students approved.
"Encouraging international students to work in restaurants while they study, but forcing them to return home as soon as they've graduated with degrees our economy desperately needs," he said.
Jamie Arrowsmith, Director of Universities UK International, commented on student work hour restrictions in the United Kingdom. At the same time that it is "good to see" that the UK government recognizes the skills and expertise that international students have to offer the UK economy, the organization is concerned about proposals to allow international students to work longer hours.
"We are concerned about allowing international students to work longer hours in addition to their studies," he said in a statement. "The proposal to allow international students to work longer hours concerns us."
"This could severely impact the well-being and learning experience of students if not properly thought through. "In other countries where restrictions have been lifted, student groups and universities have expressed serious concerns."
"If the government truly wants to ensure that the UK's nearly 680,000 international students can make the best possible contribution to our economy, they would be better advised to maintain a competitive post-study work offer and immediately recommit to the Graduate route - and to end recent speculation that it might be limited or removed entirely."
Allowing PhD students to stay and work in the UK for two or three years "provides the opportunity to apply their skills and learning," he added.
In an effort to alleviate labour shortages, both Australia and Canada abolished restrictions on the number of hours that international students were permitted to work in their respective countries in 2022.
The program was announced by Australia's Morrison administration in January 2022, with the explanation that it would address "significant employment shortages" while also attracting returning international students to study in the country.
Later that year, Australia's newly elected Labour government announced that the cap would be reinstated beginning in July 2023. The government's motivation for this decision was to achieve the "proper balance between job and study," and some have speculated that the measure may be to blame for an increase in "fake" student applications.
Furthermore, Canada has decided to extend certain work rights until November 2022 in order to assist industries that are currently experiencing a labour shortage.
Stakeholders in both countries are pleased with the "option and flexibility" that extended work hours provide to students, but they are concerned about the "potential to divert students from their academics" that this presents.