Britain will offer work visas to graduates from the world’s best universities in an expansion of its post-Brexit immigration system that is designed to attract the “best and brightest” workers. But no African universities are included in the list of eligible institutions.
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 most recent list of eligible universities from 2021, published online by the UK government, comprises more than two dozen US universities, as well as institutions in Canada, Japan, Germany, China, Singapore, France and Sweden. No African university is on the latest eligibility list, nor on lists for previous 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
The University of Cape Town and Stellenbosch University – both in South Africa – are the best-rated institutions in Africa, according to the Times Higher Education’s World University Rankings data.
However, none of them are listed in the top 50 or 100 rankings of the top global rating agencies.
Cape Town ranks a distant 183 on the Times Higher Education World University Rankings for 2022, followed by Stellenbosch, which ranks between 251-300.
According to the last published figures of the Academic Ranking of World Universities, the University of Cape Town was rated among the top 210-300 best universities globally with Stellenbosch ranked between 401-500.
Cape Town and Stellenbosch universities were ranked 226th and 482nd respectively in the Quacquarelli Symonds World University Rankings for 2022.
Since leaving the European Union, Britain has ended the priority given to EU citizens and introduced a points-based immigration system that ranks applicants on everything from their qualifications and language skills to the type of job offered to them.
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 criminality check, and be able to speak, read, listen and write English to an intermediate level.