I very much agree with my right hon. Friend. I have talked to companies in Sheffield, and they say that the opportunity to have some of the best intellectual talent in the world working with them in product development and improving manufacturing processes is a startling benefit that our city gets from its two universities.
I will move on to the specifics of an area that the Government have seen as problematic: the post-study work route. I understand, unless there are more changes that the Minister wants to share, that under the new proposals international graduates of UK universities will, from April 2012, need a confirmed job offer for a graduate level role—that is fair enough—but which pays at least £20,000, and they will need to apply for a tier 2 visa for the job before their tier 4 visa expires. There is nothing wrong with limiting work to that of a graduate level, but the imposition of a £20,000 salary threshold is too restrictive for some sectors and regions. Sheffield university tells me that its average graduate starting salary falls below £20,000: in arts and humanities it is £16,600, in pure science it is £16,100 and in social sciences it is £18,000. According to the graduate employer survey of 2011, graduates in Yorkshire should generally expect a starting salary of between £15,000 and £18,000.
One of Sheffield university’s strengths is architecture. The students’ union international students’ officer, Mina Kasherova, in written evidence to the Business, Innovation and Skills Committee, highlighted the problems facing architects: they need to gain work experience after graduation to obtain their professional qualification, but they will not be able to get such a post with a salary of more than £20,000 through tier 2.