Student Circus wins “Employability International Impact” in 2021 PIEoneer Awards

In 2018, we spoke to alumna Tripti Maheshwari, co-founder of Student Circus, when she won the PIEoneer Award for International alumni of the year, and Student Circus had just gotten off the ground. Three years later, and with another award for her work, we caught up with Tripti to see how things have developed. 

“I’m extremely excited,” Tripti Maheshwari (Finance, 2015) says. “Even if we hadn’t won, having a category, which talks about international students and jobs is great.”
In 2018 when we first spoke to Tripti, Student Circus was a new concept created by herself and co-founder Dhruv Krishnaraj. Together they had built an online platform that helps international students find the right kind of employment after graduation so that they can stay in the UK as professionals.
“I think one of the biggest things that have happened is the trust factor,” Tripti says, explaining that it was difficult in the beginning to convince stakeholders, like universities, to sign up, but this has changed with time.
“The doors we had been knocking on for all the leaders in the space, the ones who thought this will be important in the future but not yet, now they’re all lining up.”

The attitude amongst international students has also improved since 2018. Previously, many thought it impossible to find a job that would sponsor them for a visa, especially in the four months they were allowed to stay after graduating, but with a new system that allows international students to remain for two years, and the help of companies like Student Circus, more international students feel positive about staying in the UK after finishing their studies.
“Perception is the biggest problem that our business faces in a way because it’s perceived that it’s impossible to get a job,” says Tripti. “But in reality, there’s a lot more progress in a positive way that’s happening. I think we’ve been able to get that across to people’s ears and eyes.”
According to Tripti, the improvement in perception can also be seen at Student Circus with more than 45 universities in the UK and 75,000 students now signed up with the platform, and Student Circus also launched in Europe last year.
In addition, there is a service for those who do return to their home country after graduation.
“We have a new product which is jobs in home countries. When a lot of alumni, as you might very well know, go back home, they face a similar challenge of where they should start looking for a job in their country. They’ve been disconnected from their labour market for two to five years, and then they come back and need to start from scratch.”
Tripti experienced this herself when she returned to India to set up Student Circus’ India office and didn’t feel like she knew enough about the Indian ecosystem.

Laurie Noble Photography
Photo by Laurie Noble Photography

The main objective for Student Circus is to explain to students who want to stay in the UK after graduating, how the visa process works and what they need to do to secure employment that can support their application and future goals. Tripti believes one of the reasons students often have misconceptions about immigration and applying for a visa, is what’s presented in the media.
“It’s a very simple process, but it’s just not marketed in the best way possible. When you hear about things like Brexit happening, or anything related to immigration, the actual news when it’s published in other countries, like here [India], it’s completely twisted. So that doesn’t lead to very positive emotions.”
Tripti feels like she didn’t know enough when she graduated and therefore wasted time applying to companies that wouldn’t be able to sponsor her. The realisation that she was making mistakes that cost her precious time was an important reason why she wanted to create a platform that could help others.

Much has happened in the world since 2018, including Brexit and the Covid-19 pandemic, and both have had an impact on Student Circus.
“We’ve got a new audience, which is a lot more uncomfortable with the word visa, and the task is to make them more comfortable and tell them, guys, it’s nothing, it’s just a standard,” Tripti says, referring to students coming from the EU. Some of these students have already found their way to Student Circus but Tripti doesn’t think they’ve seen the full effect of Brexit yet.
“Two contrasting things happened at once, which is Brexit and Covid. Brexit was supposed to possibly amp up the international hiring, but then everything stopped in the last couple of years. So hopefully this year, we’ll see some more measurable effects that we can talk about.”
Covid hasn’t just been a negative, despite many employers having to stop hiring temporarily. With so many stakeholders forced to move online, confidence in online platforms has also grown.
“We did feel that a lot of our university clients might come back and say, hey, we haven’t got money to do this, but in fact, because they had to deliver everything online, we signed up a lot of new universities that earlier weren’t very sure about how this will work online,” Tripti says.
It also helped with student engagement as information sessions moved from small lecture theatres on campus to online platforms.
“Last year we did about 200 or 300 webinars which were only about information, and once students understood the entire visa process, they felt a lot less anxious.”

With all that has happened, what does Tripti feel like her biggest takeaway has been?
“My biggest learning has been that every time you talk there’s a human on the other side. So be conscious of that fact.”
“The other thing is, when you’re running your business, you need help from wherever and everywhere. A lot of the time you have to be shameless and just ask for things and not worry about what the other person’s going to think. All they can say is no. And you know, it’s hard, especially when you’re an international student or new to a country, and you don’t know what the culture is going to look like.”
And what are her future goals for Student Circus?
“I think our first short-term goal is to grow the team fairly quickly, so we are advertising for about 10 to 12 positions in India,” Tripti says.
“But for the business plan, I think I’m really looking to see if we can create a school desk to work desk kind of offer. A lot of students keep emailing us for help to choose a university, so we’re looking at probably in the next two years get a marketplace model or a counselling model where we can also mentor students on which universities to go to, and take them through the entire journey, and then also find them a work desk.”

Thank you to Tripti Maheshwari for sharing her story, and a big congratulations on the award!