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New Visa Data Reveal Challenging Times Ahead For International MBAs In UK

The number of talented new migrants from outside Europe seeking jobs in the UK has dropped 39%. New visa rules on international students have business schools concerned.

By  Seb Murray

Thu Jul 3 2014

The extent of the damage that tough new visa laws on UK migrants have done to businesses’ recruiting was revealed today, showing that the pool of international talent flocking to Europe’s third-largest economy has fallen considerably.

Business schools voiced concern earlier this year when new curbs were introduced which make it difficult for MBA students from outside the EU to secure jobs after graduation.  

The number of talented new migrants from outside Europe has dropped more than a third since the visa rules came into force, according to new data released today.

The study, carried out by Oxford University’s Migration Observatory, show that British companies are struggling to employ skilled staff from the United States and emerging economies.

The 39% drop in hiring from outside Europe will do little to ease fears among international MBA candidates hoping to take advantage of the UK’s high-ranking business schools. European MBA rankings released this week show that the UK has the largest amount of prestige programs than anywhere else on the continent. Schools also place huge value in the international diversity of their classes. At London Business School, for example, nearly 30% of their students come from Asia and Australasia.

Despite increases from the EU, led by Germany and France, UK-based companies are thought to be facing a shortfall of expert employees, the data suggest. Overall between 2011 and 2013, the number of highly-skilled workers dropped 10%. Nearly 30,000 fewer highly skilled internationals are in the UK today than in 2011. The figures refer to migrants who have been in the UK for less than three years.

Katja Hall, deputy director-general of the CBI, which represents 190,000 businesses, said today that too many people are being left behind in the jobs market. “Our labour market has a strong history of delivering new jobs and pay rises, but some people are still being left behind. And who you are has far too much influence on your ability to find a job and progress in your career,” she added.

Businesses were highly sceptical when the new visa curbs were first rolled out. Mary Hurlock-Murphy, a director of talent acquisition at leading UK marketing agency DigitasLBi, said that the changes in immigration regulations make it difficult to hire international MBA students. The firm plans to hire 50 MBAs this year.

She added: “The limited number of visa categories and the additional time needed to obtain work visas for candidates outside the EEA make hiring from this pool more challenging, and expensive.”

The closure of the post-study work visa, which allowed overseas graduates to stay in Britain to work for two years after finishing their degrees, effectively shut the door on many students who were hoping to launch careers in the region.

The ultimate fear for business schools is that these new findings, coupled with tougher migration curbs, put off the international students that are so coveted by MBA cohorts in the UK.

Clare Astley, Cass Business School’s MBA professional development manager, said earlier in the year: “It is more challenging for international students since the post study work visa was removed. MBAs are now being treated the same as undergrads, and there is a lack of knowledge among employers about what is involved in sponsoring.”

For MBA students, there is further bad news. Difficulties for human resources departments at the bigger UK firms have been made worse because the curbs affect the group of employees that British businesses are trying to target. A push into emerging markets is under way, and hiring graduates from those countries is often key to a company’s global development strategy.

A careers survey released last week showed that many UK firms branching out into emerging markets sought graduates who had language skills and connections with those countries.

“Our graduates are often recruited by multinational companies… To act as ‘connectors’ between the global strategy and local implementation,” said Philippe Oster, director of communication, development and admissions at HEC Paris’ MBA.

Barbara Roche, chair of the Migration Matters Trust, said that any precipitate action to choke off migration would hit businesses looking to expand. “Without migrants to plug skills gaps, businesses would struggle to grow and the recovery would be put at risk,” she added.