Brexit was a trainwreck that everyone saw coming miles away, and COVID-19 happened to be the handle that drew the train wildly off-course for a few years, but everything is back on track again.
According to the British High Commission of Singapore, the United Kingdom has established a new visa called the High Potential Individual (HPI) visa, which can be offered to anyone who has graduated from the Top 50 Universities on the British Home Office’s Top Global Universities List within the last five years.
It is designed to give British businesses access to graduates from top universities, introduced as a broader-post Brexit government strategy—if they had one in the first place, that is—to make the country more competitive in the global arena.
Specifics about the HPI Visa
In more specific terms, in order to be eligible for the HPI visa, the applicant’s university must be placed within the Top 50 positions in at least two of the following lists: Times Higher Education World University Rankings, Quacquarelli Symonds World University Rankings and The Academic Ranking of World Universities by Shanghai Jiao Tong University.
International students attending British universities are not included in this scheme as their stay in the UK is already covered by the UK graduate visa scheme, which allows anyone who has completed a degree in the UK to stay for two years after graduating.
Furthermore, applicants must meet the English language requirement and have at least ?1,270 (S$2,200) available in cash.
It’s a surprisingly small sum, though not much savings should be expected of a university graduate in the first place.
The best part would be that applicants don’t need to have a job offer first to qualify for the HPI visa. After arriving in the UK with an approved visa, the bachelor’s or master’s degree holder will be given two years to look for a job, while PhD holders will have three, in any industry of their choosing.
Presently, the National University of Singapore (NUS) is ranked 21st in the Times Higher Education, whilst Nanyang Technological University (NTU) is ranked 46th.
Possible Effects on Singapore
Therein lies the question: is this a good or bad thing for Singapore?
In Mr David Leong’s opinion, from his perspective as someone who recruits individuals for PeopleWorldwide Consulting, local graduates will naturally find this visa scheme “attractive”.
While it will cause a “brain drain” in the short term, he believes it will be a “brain gain” in the long run.
Mr Leong believes that the visa scheme presents local graduates an opportunity to gain exposure from elsewhere in the world, in different economies, and London holds many interesting prospects.
British firms are likely to find local graduates attractive too, since they are well-trained and have good working ethics. An additional edge that Singaporeans have is bilingualism in Asian languages.
Sure, local graduates will leave for European pastures for a brief period of time, but Mr Leong maintains that these graduates will eventually return home.
In his experience, they tend to return to Singapore once they’re married or intent on starting a family, for practical reasons like their children’s education.
Not to insult Britain just because they were our former colonists, but as expensive as Singapore is, it’s undeniably safer, and has a good education system, though it can be quite cutthroat and competitive.
That’s to say nothing of Singapore’s unique culture.
All in all, it would be a boon to Singapore to have employees that are more skilled and experienced.
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The Thoughts of Graduates and Professors
From what The Straits Times have gathered, some graduates have voiced their interest in applying for the visa scheme.
For instance, 27-year-old Desmond Lee is currently working in corporate law, but he’s interested in branching out to fintech, and believes that a change of location would present more opportunities, even if it’s a temporary position at the start.
NUS President Tan Eng Chye approves of the visa strongly, stating that it validates the “global competitiveness of NUS graduates”.
It gives the university all the more incentive to continue with interdisciplinary teachings that will equip their graduates with the necessary skills, adaptability, and resilience to become global citizens who are capable of making positive contributions
Likewise, NTU’s Deputy Provost Tan Ooi Kiang perceives the opportunities that this visa scheme has opened up to his university graduates, as it will allow them to develop their career prospects in the fifth largest economy in the world.
Mr Tan remarks that it goes well with the overseas exchange programmes that is a part of the NTU experience, where students are given the chance to go on overseas internships and/or immersion programmes to broaden their horizons and gain insight into the global economy.
Of course, there are grumbles coming from the local universities that didn’t manage to qualify.
I wouldn’t feel so put out though, there are exactly 31,097 universities in the world, and only graduates from the Top 50 Universities can apply.
Associate Professor Jason Tan from the National Institute of Education (NIE) is doubtful of the qualification criteria, since it leaves out the graduates from other universities.
Mr Jason Tan comments that the graduates from other local universities have proven to have similar, or even better job outcomes in some disciplines in the census, but they can’t apply for the visa scheme because their university isn’t in the Top 50 list.
The university ranking system has its own flaws, he points out.
Other local universities only lag behind in ranking because they are smaller and thereby have lesser research output, which is a significant component in the rankings.
He’s not wrong, but what can you do when it’s another country’s foreign policy?
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