During his recent visit to India, British Prime Minister David Cameron announced that there would be no cap on the number of visas for Indian students wanting to pursue studies in the UK. He also said that Indian students could stay on in the country in graduate-level jobs after finishing their studies.
Under the changes introduced last year, foreign students will only be able to remain in the UK after graduating if they get a graduate-level job with a salary of at least £20,000 from an accredited employer. Critics have said this has contributed to a fall in the number of Indians and other foreign students applying to education institutions in the UK.
HT Education spoke to two students on the verge of completing their studies in the UK about the impact of the announcement. Shanti Shankar, pursuing her PhD in psychology at Bangor University, was among the last batch of students who came to the UK on a working visa. “As my research comes to an end in 2015, I am wondering how long can I stay on, how much money I will require etc,” she says.
There have also been rumours doing the rounds that students will not be allowed to stay here for long; the maximum they can stay is three years. “As an Indian student in the UK, I had always looked forward to contributing to UK and also collaborating with India as a scientist. However, having the visa issue at the back of one’s mind was definitely a deterrent.”
“The prime minister’s announcement gives me some confidence that when I complete my studies, I can at least look for opportunities to continue my research work and teaching here,” she adds.
The announcement will help her give her best to science and academics in the UK. “Being positive I will be able to continue my endeavour without time issues.
Especially when applying for grants in UK and across the world, having the visa to work in the future is essential as a scientist/researcher,” she says.
Asked if in the present economic scenario she will be able to land herself a well-paying job in the UK, Shankar says, “If you’re good, definitely yes. This ensures you look for jobs with your specialisation and interest rather than take any job, which will impact the local people.”
“I believe if I am to continue to be in the UK, I would like to continue in a field of my interest and specialisation, which will pay me well. Having said that, if I do not get a job in six months, then I think it is definitely better to go back to my country to work there and gain experience. There is no point in staying here and doing odd jobs. Also, I would hope if I have sufficient balance to live here, then I should have a chance to continue being here.”
‘It’s a positive step’
V Shanker has a BCom from the University of Mumbai and is a qualified chartered accountant. He came to the UK on a tier 4 dependant visa (valid until the end of January 2012). Thereafter, he is on a tier 1 (post-study) dependant visa.
With a motivation to understand the neuroscience of mindfulness, a meditation-based technique and its positive benefits on pro-social behaviour and well being, Shanker completed an MSc in psychological research from Bangor University in 2012. He aims to develop his research interests in social neuroscience and is training to teach mindfulness-based courses.
He thinks the UK visa announcement is a “positive step” and as a mature student, provides him a “sense of long-term stability, considering that I have made a career shift,” he says.
As far as finding a job in a tough economic environment is concerned, he says, “I agree it is a challenge to land myself a well-paying job relevant to my background, experience and career choices. However, with a passion to follow my dreams, and with perseverance and commitment to align one’s efforts to match one’s goals, finding a well-paying job is not impossible,” says Shanker.
About Cameron’s statement, Shanker says, “After you have left a British university, if you can get a graduate-level job…it is not clear if a student will be allowed to stay on in the UK for as many years as he wishes to find a graduate job.”
If this is the intent, however, “then I think for me the decision to stay on is dependent on a number of factors. I will have to take a balanced view of all factors such as family circumstances, financial stability, career choice to make the appropriate decision,” he says.