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Eyeing the UK?

How will the UK’s new immigration rules, which come into effect from April 6, impact student traffic from India?

education Updated: Apr 03, 2012 13:12 IST
Rahat Bano

The new United Kingdom student immigration rules come into effect from this month. One key change is the end of the post-study work (PSW) option allowing international students to stay back and work after finishing their courses. How will this affect the volume as well as complexion of the student traffic from India to Britain?

As recently reported, a British Council report on the global higher education sector, expected to be out this month, underscores that UK universities are “well placed” to “take advantage of the growth in higher education in the 21st century.”

“The report predicts that the UK will take a bigger share of the growth in overseas students than the US with almost 30,000 more enrolments per year by 2020. One of the reasons for this is that the biggest growth in overseas students will come from India, which still has strong cultural connections with the UK. There are also significant opportunities to make money by creating campuses overseas like the University of Nottingham has done...” says a UK newspaper website.

However, how will the numbers surge when the UK is tightening student immigration rules, a slowdown is expected in international enrolments and India is substantially expanding capacity in higher education institutions?

One argument supporting the UK case is that it has been a study destination and not an immigration destination.

Adrian Mutton, CEO, Sannam S4 Consulting, which, among other services, assists British universities in starting India operations, says, “UK higher education remains extremely sought after despite less favourable media reports surrounding student visa applications. The truth is that for genuine student applications and qualifying graduates, there are no issues with UK visas. We see increased activity between UK higher education and further education colleges and Indian institutions and corporates, Sannam S4 being at the heart of this matchmaking.”

Indeed, almost every week, university representatives from the UK as well as other countries, are landing in India to announce local collaborations, scholarships etc.

Philip G Altbach, Monan university professor and director, Centre for International Higher Education, Boston College, says, “International student mobility is a central reality of the globalised 21st century. I do not think it will slow down — some observers think it will expand for its current 2.5 million or so to perhaps 8 million in the coming 20 years. As countries like India face an increasing demand for access, more Indians will go abroad for study.”

India’s growing middle class, with an appetite for quality education, will add to the demand. Many pursue undergraduate studies, too, overseas as, in Altbach’s words, Indian higher education is “tiny at the top”. Top Indian colleges are unable to accommodate even many high-performing candidates. Last year, an admission-hopeful with 93.5% marks couldn’t make the cut in her choice of Delhi college but secured a seat at the Ivy League Dartmouth, with a scholarship.

“It has taken hundreds of years to build the kind of institutions that the UK has. Such quality cannot be replicated overnight by new institutions in India, so naturally the brightest and best Indian students will continue to seek a British education,” says Mutton.

Ruchika Castelino, director, Study Overseas, an education consultancy in New Delhi, says, “We’ll probably not have the same rate of growth as earlier.” Now that the rules are clear and the uncertainty of the last two years is over, there’s been some uptick in student interest, she says. “Fewer people focused on jobs are coming to us now.”

Castelino says that it’s more likely to now see more aspirants with stronger financial backing or merit to win scholarships. Yet, Altbach says it’s not clear how the UK will take advantage of a scenario which has a combination of factors that would discourage many aspirants – visa and immigration changes and higher costs. The United States and (increasingly) Canada are “attractive alternatives” and at the same time, more and more European Union countries are drawing bright Indian students to courses taught in English. “The British might well be over optimistic in their predictions,” says Altbach.

New changes in the uk visa rules

* Tier 1 (post study work) will close to new applicants on April 5, 2012, but they will be able to look for work – students graduating with a UK degree or postgraduate certificate/diploma in education from a recognised or listed body will need to successfully apply for a job with a UK Border Agency-licensed Tier 2 sponsor to stay on and work in the UK. The job they apply for must pay a minimum salary of £20,000 or the minimum specified in the relevant Code of Practice
* There will be a new graduate entrepreneur route, with up to 1000 places in the first year of operation for students, working on world-class innovative ideas but who otherwise do not qualify for the Tier 1 (entrepreneur) route
* Scope for young entrepreneurs (or small company directors) to stay on in the UK after their studies if they have £50,000 to invest in their business
* Maintenance fee hiked
* Work placements to be restricted to one-third of the course for international students who are studying below degree level and not at a university

Details onhttp://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/publications/agencies-public-bodies/changes-study-visa-soi?view=Binary