Experiencing the UK Graduate route: Nigeria, MSc

Date:Jun 2023
Topic(s): Recruitment, Student employability, Graduate route, Transition
Type(s): AGCAS Case study

The Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services (AGCAS), a member of UKCISA’s International Student Employability Group (ISEG), has captured the experiences of international graduates seeking employment in the UK after graduation in a series of case studies.

Who are you?



Nationality / country of origin


Current visa

Graduate route

Are your expectations of your Graduate route visa being met?

Strongly disagree

University, level of study and programme of study

University in the east Midlands


Higher degree, mainly by taught course (eg. MA, MSc, MBA)

How many roles have you applied for since leaving university?


Current activity

Employed – full time (temporary contract)

 Where do you work?

Job title

Food and Beverage Assistant

Employer / organisation

Conference centre

Region of your contracted place of work

East Midlands

Briefly describe your role and your main responsibilities

I move furniture around the centre, set up tables for dinners and meetings, tend the bars in the facility and occasionally wait on guests.

Time between the end of your course and start date for your current role

Less than 3 months

How did you find your current job?

Through a contact (eg. Tutor, friend, previous employer)

Thoughts on your visa

I graduated with my MSc in Electrical and Electronic Engineering with Distinction from a Russell Group university. I also won my department’s MSc Project Prize for designing and prototyping a computer vision-based automated lane-keeping system for connected and autonomous vehicles.

“I thought I would be able to land a relevant career in engineering to gain more industrial experience.”

Prior to that, I obtained a Bachelor of Engineering degree with Honours in the same field with about a year and a half of experience in electrical systems and power applications. Upon graduation, I thought I would be able to land a relevant career in engineering to gain more industrial experience in a developed platform by utilising the opportunity presented by the Graduate route visa. Unfortunately, it was the exact opposite.

I have applied for a number of jobs, mostly graduate/entry roles in my field, and have met the respective candidate’s requirements. Often, I get calls from recruiters who claim to have come across my CV on Indeed and related platforms, seeing that my interest in various roles matches their requirements. I get my hopes up but then never hear from them again.

“I had no choice but to take up an unskilled job.”

While this trend continued, the expensive cost of living in the UK kept making it difficult to keep up hope. Of course, I had no choice but to take up an unskilled job and deal with its physically demanding nature to survive while my acquired knowledge continues to go to waste.

It is quite heart-breaking that recruiters, or perhaps the organisations of which the recruiters are middlemen, continue to make it difficult for postgraduate degree holders to secure entry/graduate roles, demanding unrealistic years of experience when in fact, they are entry level roles.

Applying for the Graduate route visa was easy, as the process was quite simple to understand and follow. The incorporation of near-field communication (NFC) technology in the UK immigration app also made it tremendously convenient, allowing us to save extra cost and time for visiting an interview location to verify our documents. The Home Office made a decision on my application within a week and my biometric resident permit (BRP) arrived in about two weeks.

While I think the cost of the application is fair owing to its benefits, the health surcharge was outrageous. Since I arrived in the UK, I have never had to visit my GP or use the health service. While this is subjective and case-dependent, the charge is utterly ridiculous for international students. I asked a few of my friends and none of them had bothered using this service, at least not extensively. Therefore, I believe the increase in the Immigration Health Surcharge, which occurred in 2020, was unjustifiable. It does not reflect the medical demands of international students. International students already pay over three times on average what home students pay in academic fees and living. Additionally, most of us work hard and pay taxes. We should not have to suffer, nor be responsible for covering overhead costs of the health service impacted by the Covid pandemic, because we are seeking a better education and life in the UK.

Support and development 

At university, I attended a careers fair. Since leaving university, I have sought to volunteer or shadow for engineering firms, mainly to gain “more relevant experience”, but have been unsuccessful. As a result, I have had to resort to online courses and YouTube lectures to acquire skills that will keep my knowledge base active and bolster my portfolio in the hope of securing a professional and relevant role in the future.

Employer knowledge and attitudes 

I think employers have a good enough knowledge of the post-study visa in terms of duration and right to work. I think many of them fear that the two or three years of validity could impact their organisation in terms of workforce stability. This impression is particularly apparent with employers who do not and/or are not willing to sponsor Skilled Worker visas. 

What advice would you give to current international students seeking graduate employment in the UK? 

If I had a way of turning back time, I would not have sought graduate employment in the UK immediately after graduation, unless I was in the medical and public health sector. The real-world situation is demoralising and quite unfortunate as recruiters are leaning towards experiences rather than academic qualifications with a good enough level of industrial exposure from internships and placements even for their entry positions.

“I would advise current international students to seek other alternatives.”

Until better policies for graduate level and non-citizen employment have been made, I would advise current international students to seek other alternatives like progressing further in education or seeking prior experiences before they arrive to study postgraduate programmes in the UK.