International students will be given visa extensions of up to a year to look for work in the UK as part of a package of government measures to boost numbers of overseas students after Brexit. The move represents a break with current policy, where students are allowed to stay for just four months after graduating. Announcing the strategy, the Department for Education (DFE) said: “There is no limit on the number of international students that can study in the UK, and to ensure the UK continues to attract and welcome them, the post-study leave period will be extended to six months for undergraduate and master’s students, and a year for doctoral students.” It said the government would also consider “how the visa process could be improved for applicants and supporting student employment”, hinting at another possible change in policy. The DFE and the Department for International Trade also plan to unveil an international education strategy with a 30 per cent increase in overseas students in UK higher education during the next decade. This would raise the number of non-UK students at British universities from 460,000 – including nearly 140,000 from the EU – to 600,000 by 2030, an ambitious target given that EU students will face higher tuition fees and lose access to student loans after Brexit. “As we prepare to leave the EU it is more important than ever to reach out to our global partners and maximise the potential of our best assets. That includes our education offer and the international students this attracts,” said education secretary Damian Hinds. Janet Beer, vice-chancellor of Liverpool University and chair of Universities UK, said her organisation has been discussing the strategy with the government for the past six months. “International students contribute a huge amount to the UK, not only economically but also by enriching the international education environment in our universities for all students,” she said. “Their presence in the UK is worth an estimated £26 billion (US$34 billion) in direct and knock-on effects, sustaining over 200,000 jobs in all parts of the UK. Record numbers from mainland China and Hong Kong apply to study in UK “We particularly welcome steps to improve the visa regime, including the extension of opportunities for our graduates to work in the UK once they graduate, to six months for undergraduates and master’s students, and a year for those who undertake PhDs. “We would like the government to go further and extend this opportunity to at least two years.” The visa extension follows a recommendation by the independent migration advisory committee last year, and the government’s own white paper on skills-based immigration published in December. Currently, graduates can stay up to four months after finishing their courses, although those with PhDs can apply for an additional year.