The UK could be losing some of its shine as a popular study destination for Indian students. The main reason for this is the change in visa rules for non-EU students, which restricts international students from staying on in the UK after studies. Sarosh Zaiwalla, a UK-based lawyer, says, “International students often have to take hefty loans to fund their studies in the UK, and the government needs to take strategic steps to reassure these students and give them a reasonable window to work or intern alongside getting a degree.
“The government needs to make changes that will allow more people to seek work in the UK, because for many, studying abroad is far more than just earning a degree,” he says.
Read more: What Brexit means to Indian students
As per the Higher Education Statistics Agency, UK, there were about 10,000 first-year Indian students in the UK in 2004-05, a number which grew steadily to cross 20,000 between 2008 and 2011. However, with the strict work policies and immigration rules, this dropped drastically from 2011 and was back to 10,125 in 2014-15. According to the UK Council for International Student Affairs, Indian students are the next largest cohort in the UK after China with 18,320, although this represents a continuing drop from the previous year and the year before.
In spite of the fact that international students make significant contributions to universities’ populations and revenues, no one has yet confirmed whether or not a cap will be introduced on student visas. “British universities are likely to lobby against such a move. This is because financially, many universities have benefited significantly from the influx of high-fee-paying international students, and a cap would negatively affect revenues,” says Zaiwalla.
Rahul Choudaha, co-founder, interEDGE.org, a US-based firm focused on international student career success, says, “Indian students are driven by maximising the return on their educational experience by enrolling in shorter duration programmes with high potential for finding job opportunities. That’s why the majority of Indian students are enrolled in master’s programmes in engineering or business. As the UK policy becomes stricter in terms of issuing visas for study and work, Indian students will start looking for alternative destinations.” Many British universities offer high-quality programmes and they are actively looking to sustain the attractiveness for Indian students. “Offering scholarships is a difficult proposition due to the economic climate and, of course, visa policies are outside the control of universities. So, some universities are trying more to reach out to students through social media and alumni. The current economic and political climate in the UK is about limiting migration from any pathway. And, hence in the short term of next two years it is unlikely that the visa policies will get any lenient or supportive for more work and immigration opportunities for Indian students,” says Choudaha.