India has taken up the key issue of Britain closing the post-study work visa, which allowed self-financing Indian students to work here after completing their studies, gain experience and recover some of the high costs of studying.
Reviving a tradition after a gap of nearly 30 years, Indian high commissioner Ranjan Mathai on Friday evening invited nearly 100 Indian students studying at various universities in and around London to India House for a widely-appreciated interaction.
During the interaction, held in the historic Gandhi Hall of India House – designed in the 1920s by Herbert Baker who also designed Parliament House in New Delhi – Mathai said he had often discussed the issue of post-study work visa with British authorities.
The post-study work visa, closed in 2012 as part of David Cameron government’s moves to limit immigration from non-European Union countries, has often been mentioned as a key reason for a major drop in the number of Indian students coming to UK universities in recent years.
Mathai said: "Many of the students who I have had an interaction with feel that if they’d had a chance to pay their way by staying on for a year – which the system allowed before – then it would make their taking loans and coming to the UK for education more worthwhile, more possible. That’s one reason the numbers have gone down."
He added: "I have raised this issue with British authorities, several MPs have also done so. I hope it will be reviewed. We value your presence here and your contribution to the UK-India relationship."
Deputy high commissioner Virander Paul said there was a continuing dialogue between the University Grants Commission and counterpart British organisations on the issue of recognition and equivalence of British Masters degrees in India (Most Masters courses in the UK are of 1-year duration, while Masters courses in India are of two years).
Amidst allegations by some Indians here of the high commission being unresponsive and even rude in its dealings, Mathai promised a closer engagement with Indian students, and introduced key officers to the gathering, who promised prompt response to their queries.
Several students recounted their experience of studying in Britain, with most terming it as a rewarding experience, particularly due to the different ways in which education is imparted here and in India – as a student remarked, "mugging in India versus making you think here".
Until the 1980s, it was an annual practice for the high commissioner to meet newly-arrived Indian students. The number of students at the time was in the hundreds, but the practice stopped when the numbers went into the thousands (there are now 13,000 Indian students).
The high commission has now revived the practice by holding similar interaction with students in other towns in Britain.