Under the scheme announced on Monday, graduates with a bachelor’s or master’s degree from the top 50 universities abroad can apply for a two-year work visa and will be allowed to bring family members with them. Those who receive doctorates can apply for a three-year visa.
Successful applicants will then be able to switch to longer-term employment visas, the government said.
Eligible universities must appear in the top 50 rankings of at least two of the following: the Times Higher Education World University Rankings, the Academic Ranking of World Universities and the Quacquarelli Symonds World University Rankings. Those rankings must be for the year of the applicant’s graduation, which must be within the past five years.
The decision to exclude graduates from African universities has been criticized.
“To exclude an entire continent brimming over with the enormous creative and intellectual energies of its youth on the basis of its absence from arbitrary, culturally biased, abuse-prone university rankings is shortsighted….Several unranked African universities have produced, and continue to produce, some of the brightest minds in the world.” said Professor Farooq Kperogi of the Kennesaw State University, Georgia.
“University rankings are a Euro-American obsession. They are no more than perceptions of institutional prestige and name recognition…which do not necessarily reflect quality,” Kperogi added.
“It is unfortunate that African graduates are being excluded,” said Dr. Owoyemi Elegbeleye of Nigeria’s University of Lagos. “The UK government should consider a spread in this policy so that Africans can benefit. They can spread the eligibility list to the top 300,” he told CNN.
Irina Filatova, an emeritus professor of the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa, remarked that the ranking system was “skewed in favor of English language and technological universities.”
“It is good that universities compete, but the problem is that the system of ranking is skewed in favor of English language and technological universities. If you look at the top universities, they are the best in technology,” Filatova said.
CNN has reached out to the UK Home Office for comment.
Africa’s best rated universities
However, none of them are listed in the top 50 or 100 rankings of the top global rating agencies.
But the country has faced a tight labor market for several years — compounded by Brexit and Covid-19 — and companies in manufacturing, logistics and the food sector have urged the government to loosen the rules for entry-level jobs.
Rishi Sunak, the British finance minister, said the scheme would enable the UK to grow as an international hub for innovation, creativity, and entrepreneurship.
“We want the businesses of tomorrow to be built here today — which is why I call on students to take advantage of this incredible opportunity to forge their careers here,” Sunak said.
The government said candidates must pass a security and crime check, and be able to speak, read, listen and write English at an intermediate level.