British arts, fashion and culture could be badly affected unless overseas students are given more freedom to remain in the UK after finishing their studies, according to leading names in the industry.
In a letter written to The Guardian, figures including actor John Hurt, broadcaster Sandi Toksvig and Hong Kong-born fashion designer John Rocha, said it was difficult for many graduates to obtain UK visas because of the freelance nature of much creative work. They said the current system means people are penalised and the UK’s cultural life will suffer in the longer term unless changes are made to the system.
The letter said: “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 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.”
The signatories called for international students not to be included in Government efforts to reduce net migration to the UK. It argued that unless graduates were permitted to remain in Britain after they finished studying, the UK risked losing their talent to other nations.
To remain in the UK at the end of their degree, international graduates must secure a job with one employer paying at least £20,800 a year. However, the creative industries often offer lower starting salaries and also rely on people working on short term or freelance contracts.
Labour and the Liberal Democrats have committed to removing students from immigration statistics if they are successful in the General Election. Labour has also pledged to reintroduce a post-study work visa.