We have less data on the Graduate route than we thought we did

And substantially less than is needed

Michael Salmon is News Editor at Wonkhe

A publication from the University of Oxford’s Migration Observatory in January was notable for a number of reasons.

As DK’s observed on the site elsewhere today that there is a shortage of good data on the outcomes of those who’ve been on the Graduate route, so a bit of serious analysis based on a large tranche of FOIs was very welcome (despite the problems with relying too much on FOI data). It’s notable too that the report was co-authored by Madeleine Sumption, a member of the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC).

The report also attracted the attention of Conservative MP Neil O’Brien, who tweeted a graph showing where those who’d been on the Graduate route ended up as evidence for what he termed a “Deliveroo visa scandal.”

The Financial Times splashed on the data, reporting that “more than half of all foreign students who switched from graduate visas to skilled worker visas in the year ending June 2023 went into care work.”

And when Home Secretary James Cleverly launched the MAC review of the Graduate route in March, he noted that “initial data shows that the majority of international students switching from the Graduate route into the Skilled Worker route go into care work.” He didn’t cite his sources, of course, but it certainly seems like a reference to the Migration Observatory’s work.

So it’s somewhat unfortunate that earlier this month the Migration Observatory issued a correction:

This analysis was revised on 17 April 2024. The Home Office had incorrectly labelled the Freedom of Information data provided to us. It has now clarified that the occupation and salary data cover international students switching directly from study to Skilled Worker visas, not former students switching from the Graduate route as the previous version of this analysis had stated.

So sadly this data tells us nothing about outcomes of those on the Graduate route – it’s noted elsewhere that “the Home Office was not able to provide data on people switching to Skilled Worker visas after spending time on the Graduate route, and this cohort may well have a different profile.” The report overall argues that the shifts in student and graduate behaviour in question are driven by policy churn around care visas (of which there has been more since the report first appeared), rather than something inherent to the student visa system.

We’ll have to wait for this Home Office data release – timed to go alongside the MAC report on 14 May – for a bit more clarity. Whether this will inform the forthcoming Centre for Policy Studies report on migration from Neil O’Brien and Robert Jenrick remains to be seen. You sense their minds are already made up.

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