The recent UK education fair at the British Council in New Delhi may have attracted many enthusiastic young people, but there were underlying worries about the recent student visa restrictions, which include removal of the post-study work option and the London Metropolitan University (LMU) case. So will these issues impact student mobility?
The British high commissioner, Sir James Bevan, feels Indians aspiring to study in that country are right to be concerned about the visa problem. “That’s why we’ve ensured that there remains a provision for Indian students to work after study,” he says. Since April 2012 foreign students can continue to remain in the UK after completing work, provided the jobs they are doing are of graduate level. Earlier, you could stay on for two years at any kind of job. The salary threshold of 20,000 pounds which has been set “is reasonable because the average wage in the UK is 26,000 pounds. So it’s a threshold easily crossed provided you get graduate level jobs,” says Bevan
Indians usually study engineering or IT or business, for which there is a big demand amongst employers. “So, the new rule means if you get a graduate level job in the UK you can work for at least three years with the option for extending it for another three years. In a way that’s a better deal because it offers you six years of work in the UK in a quality job rather than two years in a pretty low quality job” (as was the case earlier), Bevan adds.
And can one survive on 20,000 pounds a year? Sayantan Das, a software professional with Smart Sat in London, says one can “get by. Travel and rent are very expensive in London, but life is relatively better in the suburbs and other cities,” he adds.
On LMU, Bevan says all educational institutions in the UK who were taking in foreign students had to demonstrate that they had genuine students on the rolls; that the students were attending classes regularly and that they spoke good English to be able to profit from that course. “When our border agency inspected LMU they found they could not satisfy us on any of those three things. We will, however, be working with them (LMU) to see if we can find a solution that satisfies our border requirements,” he says.
A court has ruled that the students at LMU who are legitimately in the UK with a valid visa will be able to stay on and continue studies. “If that changes, the British government will do everything it can to help the students. If they cannot continue to study at LMU, we will find them alternative places at other universities,” Bevan says.
Both Bevan and British Council director Rob Lynes were hopeful of the foreign universities bill being passed. “More importantly, collaborations and agreements between India and the UK are increasing. Over the last five years the UK India Educational Research Initiative (UKIERI) has seen over 700 new partnerships develop. These are between the top universities such as Cambridge, Oxford and others and top universities in India,” says Lynes.
“There are usually nearly half a million foreign students in Britian at any given time of whom at the moment just over 30,000 are Indian. “If you look at the current leadership of India,” says Bevan, “whether it’s the politicians, business people or those in the media, you will see that a very high proportion of those people studied in the UK.Our foreign minister was here recently and he met his Indian counterpart Salman Khurshid. They had both been to Oxford so there was a bond...”