Monday, March 09, 2015

Indian students are keeping out of UK

British Indian entrepreneur and life peer Karan Bilimoria has again flagged the issue of the sharp drop in the number of Indian students going to study in UK universities, and has asked the UK government to remove non-EU students from the immigration figures and reintroduce the post-study work visa.

Recently, participating in a debate on UK’s immigration Bill in the House of Lords, Lord Bilimoria said, “The prime minister (David Cameron) talks about Britain having to take part in a global race yet the government’s insistence is on following this madcap immigration cap policy and targeting bringing down the immigration level to the tens of thousands. This is shooting ourselves in the foot.”

Speaking at another event, organised by UK’s National Union of Students (NUS), Bilimoria pointed out that the enormous benefits that talented overseas students brought to the UK were “not just a nice-tohave, but were a vital part of the British economy”. “Recent estimates put the annual value of selling British education to overseas students at £14billion,” he pointed out. In a hard-hitting speech, Bilimoria raised the issue of UK losing out in the race to attract talented students from India.

“In the rush for talent — the most important resource in our economy — we are swiftly falling behind. Take France. The government of Fran├žois Hollande has set itself the target of doubling the number of Indian students in its universities. And is busy snapping up the very students the Home Office is driving away,” he said. Adding that at a recent lecture in London, Australian education minister Christopher Pyne had said that he wanted to thank Britain for its immigration policies because they had driven so many students to Australia’s universities.

According to a report by The Russell group, which represents 24 leading UK universities, intakes of post-graduate students from India at its institutions dropped by 21% in 2011-12, with a further drop of 18% in 2012-13. Lord Bilimoria, who is a graduate of the University of Cambridge, expressed his concern over the 25% fall in the number of Indian students applying to UK universities last year, pointing out statistics gathered by NUS which show that 51% of international students in the UK find the government to be unwelcoming.

One of Lord Bilimoria’s recommendations to the British government is removing student figures from the total immigration figures to send out a clear message that UK did not include them in the government’s “madcap immigration cap target”. “Secondly, a system in which everyone’s passports will be scanned in and out of the country, at all ports of entry, should be introduced as soon as possible and the government should bring back the post-student work visa,” he said. Lord Bilimoria was also critical of the additional National Health Service charge of £150 per year per student proposed to be introduced. “The proposed NHS fees are unwelcoming.

As a former foreign student in this country, I know how expensive it is to study here. The average international student will spend something in the region of £75,000 during a three-year degree programme.”
Even as the number of Indian students choosing UK as a destination for higher education falls, other overseas destinations are gaining an advantage. “While it is still difficult to quantify this in terms of percentages, other countries have gained on the reducing popularity of UK as an education destination.

Developed higher education destinations such as the US, Continental Europe and Singapore have seen some clear gains as expected and new destinations have come to the forefront,” said Rohan Ganeriwala, co-founder, Collegify, consultants for overseas education. Some of the new destinations for Indian students include Malaysia, Japan, Spain, Russia and Korea. “Indian students do not feel welcome to the UK due to the strict visa regime. An atmosphere of negativity has been created and students question the post education employment prospects available to them.

Following the withdrawal of the post-study work visa and tightening of corporates with regard to hiring non EU students as interns/trainees/analysts, post graduate applications from India alone have witnessed a 50% drop since 2013,” Ganeriwala added.

According to Nilufer Jain, cofounder, EduCat, an overseas education consulting firm for medical studies, the UK government should consider steps to open up employability options for international students to repair some of the damage that has been done.

(This article is written by Ishani Duttagupta.)

Source: The Economic Times, March 9, 2015

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