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Drama schools welcome two-year visa extension for international graduates

International students can stay and look for work in the UK for up to two years from next year, according to proposals. Photo: Shutterstock
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Drama schools have welcomed proposals for a visa extension for international graduates, hailing the move as a “positive step-change” for the industry.

From next year, international students will be able to stay and look for work in the UK for up to two years.

This reverses a controversial decision made in 2012 by Theresa May, who was home secretary at the time, limiting work visas for overseas students to four months.

The two-year visa is not limited by numbers and is available to international students who have completed a degree at undergraduate level or higher in any subject.

Drama schools including RADA, East 15, ArtsEd and Royal Conservatoire of Scotland have praised the move.

RADA director Edward Kemp said: “RADA is hugely supportive of this reversal of what was always regarded as a very retrogressive and short-sighted decision by previous governments.

“UK culture has massively benefited historically from international students trained at RADA and other conservatoire schools – performers, designers and technicians.

“Since the introduction of the previous legislation, it has become harder and harder for these artists to make a contribution to the UK scene and we have all been the poorer for their absence.”

Kemp added that the proposed change will be of “immense benefit to the cross-cultural dialogue” between the UK and other countries, arguing this is of “paramount importance at the current time”.

Director at East 15, Chris Main, told The Stage: “As a drama school that celebrates cultural diversity, that is committed to its international outlook, this is great news for both future students and the industry as a whole.

“It’s only a shame that our current and incoming students (approximately 30% of which come from abroad) will not benefit from the recent, logical decision.”

ArtsEd principal Chris Hocking, also welcomed the news.

He said: “This means that our future overseas students will be able to use their world-class training gained from ArtsEd immediately, and find quality roles in West End productions and at other great theatres right across the United Kingdom.

“This is a positive step-change for everyone and will enable the UK to not only attract and educate some of the world’s most talented performing arts individuals but also to showcase them all too.”

A spokesperson for the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland said the institution welcomed “all opportunities that enable [its] international graduates to live, work and develop their creativity in Scotland and across the UK.”

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