Under the scheme announced Monday, graduates with bachelor’s or master’s degrees from the top 50 foreign universities can apply for a two-year work visa and can bring family members with them. Those who have been promoted can apply for a three-year visa.
Successful applicants can then transfer to a longer-term work visa, the government said.
Eligible universities must be in the top 50 rankings of at least two of the following: the Times Higher Education World University Rankings, the Academic Ranking of World Universities, and the Quacquarelli Symonds World University Rankings. Those rankings must relate to the applicant’s year of graduation, which must be within the past five years.
The decision to exclude graduates from African universities has been criticized.
“It is short-sighted to exclude an entire continent oozing with the tremendous creative and intellectual energy of his youth on the basis of his absence of arbitrary, culturally biased, abuse-prone university rankings…. Several unranked African universities have produced, and continue to produce, some of the brightest minds in the world.” said Professor Farooq Kperogi of Kennesaw State University, Georgia.
“University rankings are a Euro-American obsession. They are just perceptions of institutional prestige and brand awareness… which don’t necessarily reflect quality,” Kperogi added.
“It is unfortunate that African graduates are being excluded,” said Dr Owoyemi Elegbeleye from the Nigerian University of Lagos. “The UK government should consider spreading this policy so that Africans can take advantage of it. They can spread the list of eligible candidates to the top 300,” he told CNN.
Irina Filatova, professor emeritus at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa, noted that the ranking system was “skewed in favor of anglophone and technology universities”.
“It’s good that universities compete, but the problem is that the ranking system is skewed in favor of Anglophone and Technology universities. If you look at the top universities, they are the best in technology,” Filatova said.
CNN has contacted the UK Home Office for comment.
Africa’s Top-Rated Universities
However, none of them are in the top 50 or 100 of the best global rating agencies.
But the country has been dealing with a tight labor market for several years – exacerbated by Brexit and Covid-19 – and companies in manufacturing, logistics and the food sector have urged the government to relax the rules for entry-level jobs.
Rishi Sunak, Britain’s Chancellor of the Exchequer, said the plan would enable the UK to grow as an international hub for innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship.
“We want tomorrow’s businesses to be built here today – so I’m calling on students to take advantage of this incredible opportunity to build their careers here,” said Sunak.
The government said candidates must pass a security and crime check and be able to speak, read, listen and write English at an intermediate level.