MAC review 'whitewashes' flaws in immigration system

Responding to the Migration Advisory Committee rapid review of the Graduate route, the authors of CPS immigration report, ‘Taking Back Control’ said:

Robert Jenrick MP:

‘We urgently need to unwind the sector’s growing dependency on foreign students. The graduate route should be scrapped and we must fundamentally rethink our International Education Strategy (IES), including the completely arbitrary target of attracting 600,000 foreign students pa.

‘The MAC’s review today endorses the route partly because the IES would likely fail without it and their conclusions have clearly been constrained by the narrow terms of reference deliberately set by the government. If you order white paint, you get a whitewash.

‘As ever with migration policy, SW1 has become completely desensitised to vast numbers. If these universities are selling good quality education to students they have nothing to fear by the graduate route being scrapped. However if their business model is premised on the ability to work in the U.K. with no minimum salary requirements, then that needs to change.’

Neil O’Brien MP:

‘The MAC’s rapid review into the Graduate route is a whitewash – it could hardly be anything else, given its narrow terms of reference and the Government’s pretty clear preference not to do anything. But although a whitewash, the new data in the report is explosive. For example, working 40 hours a week on the minimum wage gets you just under £2k a month – yet the data shows that the great majority of people on the Graduate route earn less than that on average. In fact, people on the Graduate visa are on average earning half as much as UK workers. The Graduate visa has been a boon for dodgy employers.
‘The MAC have followed the essay question set by the government – and fair enough. DfE stakeholders will be happy. But if we want to keep our promises to the public, and get to a selective system that maximises the benefits, we should go back to what we agreed under the Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition government. Study visas should be available, but should be for study. Work visas should be available for those who will come to do high-wage, high-skill work. The two things are different.

‘Instead, we are pursuing an arbitrary target of 600,000 international students, and the expansion of universities for their own sake. Vast debt-fuelled higher education expansion been part of our economic model since the Blair era. But if that model was going to lead to an economic miracle, it sure is taking a long time to turn up.’

Karl Williams:

‘Today’s report findings will come as a surprise to many given the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) originally recommended against the creation of the Graduate route prior to its implementation in 2021. The U-turn from MAC comes following a review that struggles to get to grips with issues at hand, in part due to its narrow focus on ‘abuse’. Had the scope of the review been broader and the wider context been taken into account, the findings may have looked very different.

‘A lack of timely data on overseas student numbers and progression into the workforce also limits the relevance of the review. It fails to address the problem of universities effectively selling UK residency permits rather than education places. In short, this review fails to properly investigate concerns about the Graduate route – not least the way in which it seems to be undermining academic standards in higher education.’




  • Taking Back Control: Why Britain needs a better approach to immigration’ is available to download here.
  • Robert Jenrick is the Conservative MP for Newark and former Minister for Immigration, Neil O’Brien is the Conservative MP for Harborough, and Karl Williams is Research Director at the Centre for Policy Studies.
  • For further information and media requests, please contact Josh Coupland, Digital & Communications Manager, on 07912485655 or [email protected].
  • The Centre for Policy Studies is one of the oldest and most influential think tanks in Westminster. With a focus on taxation, economic growth, business, welfare, education, housing and green growth, its goal is to develop policies that widen enterprise, ownership and opportunity.

Date Added: Tuesday 14th May 2024