Chinese students at the 18th International Student Fair in London on Wednesday. (WANG MINGJIE/CHINA DAILY)
With record numbers of Chinese students studying in the UK, the volume of graduates finding work and getting the visas they need to remain in the country has not risen proportionally, with difficulty finding visa sponsorship a major reason.
According to the UK Higher Education Statistics Agency, the 89,540 Chinese students in Britain far exceeds the total from any other nation. Recruitment experts say only a small portion, largely those from top-tier universities, are able to find UK jobs after graduation.
The number of foreign students in the UK has stimulated a debate about whether curbs are needed. UK Chancellor Philip Hammond has reportedly challenged one of Prime Minister Theresa May's stances on immigration. He believes foreign students should be excluded from immigration curbs likely to be introduced in the wake of Brexit, British media reports have said.
May has been firmly opposed to excluding students from any immigration controls.
Chinese graduates, meanwhile, have been getting little help in finding the sort of work that qualifies them for a visa, said Sarah Jones, business director at Hays, a leading global specialist recruitment group.
Speaking at the 18th International Student Career Fair in London, she said: "There are lots of nuances and intricacies involved and not many organizations are able to do this, which I think is quite sad."
Zhou Jia, a postgraduate film studies student at University College London, wants to work in the UK after graduation next year but has not found an employer able to sponsor her visa application. She is looking at other options, such as applying for a Tier 5 temporary work visa.
Tier 5 visas allow students to stay an additional 12 months after their Tier 4 student visa expires, as long as they find an internship with an employer that meets certain conditions.
While some students want to stay in the UK, others favor returning to China.
Hou Lu, who studies strategic marketing at Cranfield University, does not want a permanent job in the UK because of the growing number of opportunities in China, but she does value the overseas working experience.
A survey conducted by Hays among 1,000 recent Chinese graduates suggests many lack business acumen, social skills, internship experience, and the ability to understand businesses' expectations.
Mike Muttiah, a senior manager at Career Interactive UK, noted many Chinese students lack soft skills.
"They tend to talk in Chinese most of the time and therefore their communication skills and English proficiency are two things that hold them back from getting a top graduate job in the UK, despite them being hardworking and results-driven," Muttiah said.
Jones, from the recruitment company Hays, said graduates should consider doing an internship to show employers they are eager and able to work.
However, she said Chinese graduates from top UK universities are finding work.
The top sectors in which Chinese graduates find work are financial services, IT and software, and pharmaceutical and healthcare. Companies in these fields can also usually offer visa sponsorship.