The recent announcement by UK chancellor of the exchequer George Osborne in his Autumn Statement that foreign non-European Union students could be excluded from official migration figures, has been welcomed by education experts. If Osborne’s proposal is implemented, overseas students, including those from India, will not be included in the overall migration statistics.
The UK chancellor has also ruled out tougher language tests and greater savings requirements for student visa applicants, saying these are not government policy and will not be implemented.
Welcoming the announcements, Keith Burnett, vice chancellor of the University of Sheffield, said: “The drop in the number of Indian students has had university leaders extremely concerned for a long time. The proposal will rightly go some way in reassuring India that, aside from world-class teaching and facilities, the UK will recognise her huge academic and cultural contribution to this country.”
He added that university authorities in UK were working closely with the British Council, and with students to develop a campaign to reach out to prospective students across the world and above all in India
Karan Bilimoria, member of the House of Lords and founder Cobra Beer, too, welcomed Osborne’s announcement. “The announcement by Osborne is extremely positive. I have been saying for many years that the government should set targets to increase the number of international students entering the UK and, finally, the chancellor has listened and set a target of a 55,000 increase in the number of international students by 2019-2020. The statement will certainly encourage Indian students to come to the UK and hopefully arrest the decline,” he told ET.
Bilimoria said that after a prolonged period of sending out harmful, negative rhetoric to those hoping to study in the country, this proposal by Osborne puts the UK on the right course to make changes in policy that will not just allow but encourage international students to study in the country.
“I hope that the UK government will target prospective Indian students with its policy initiatives, for example by reintroducing a post-study work visa for foreign students, including Indian students, which were in place before the previous government changed it. Indian students are one of the largest foreign student communities in British universities and have a great deal to offer,” he said.
Recently, mayor London Boris Johnson had proposed new measures to help the city retain its position as the education capital of the world and arrest the sharp decline in the number of Indian students who went there to study. London attracts 100,000 international students every year, more than any other city in the world. These students contribute £3 billion to the capital’s economy and help support 37,000 jobs, according to research from mayor Johnson’s promotional agency London and Partners.
India is the third-largest inte
rnational student market in London after China and America. However, the number of Indian students studying at London’s higher education institutions has more than halved over the last five years. In 2009-10, there were 9,925 Indian students in UK’s capital while in 2013-14 there were only 4,790. This comes at a time when the demand for higher education is growing due to India’s economic growth and the expansion of its middle class, the research found.
Johnson has put forward to the UK government two policy options on work opportunities following graduation which will be attractive to students from India and other countries. These include a Commonwealth work visa for up to two years which would be with India, in the first instance, but could be extended to other Commonwealth countries, if successful.
The second proposal is of a work visa for graduates in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) for up to two years.
Although not restricted to nationality, this will be attractive to Indian students for whom STEM degrees are popular. It would also help to meet a critical skills shortage in the UK in areas such as life sciences, engineering and technology. UK’s Post Study Work Visa, which gave non-EU students the right to remain in the UK for two years after graduation, was closed in 2012.
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A glimmer of hope for those wanting to study in the UK
Posted on December 21, 2015