Leading figures in the UK arts scene have called on the next government to rethink the visa system for international students who graduate from UK universities.
Writer and comedian Sandi Toksvig, playwright Bonnie Greer, music producer George Martin, artist Grayson Perry, broadcaster Melvyn Bragg, actor John Hurt and fashion designers John Rocha and Wayne Hemingway, amongst others, have lent their voices to the call to increase flexibility within the immigration system.
The plea, published on the Guardian, is directed at the next UK government – no matter which party is in power after the General Election on 7th May.
It opens by declaring that “Some of the most acclaimed individuals from the arts – spanning film, fashion, fine art, design, drama, dance and music – have studied in the UK.”
The signatories believe that the current government is risking cultural life in the UK with their approach to immigration, which could be seen to penalise arts graduates.
Currently international students are required to earn a minimum salary of £20,800 from one employer if they are to remain in the UK once their degree has ended – something that is not always possible, or even likely, for those graduating and searching for jobs within the notoriously low-paying and temperamental arts sector.
The piece ends by saying that, “Whatever the makeup of the next government, it must think again about the UK’s immigration policy. The rethink should begin with the removal of students from any immigration target set for the next parliament and an increase in opportunities for qualified international graduates to remain in the UK once they finish their degree.
“Otherwise, if we do not act, we risk losing a generation of talented individuals to our competitors.”
Read the full plea here.