One of the major reasons for a drop in Indian students coming to Britain in recent years is the closure of nearly 800 bogus colleges that enrolled international students but did not have the required infrastructure or standing, ministers have suggested.
The bogus colleges were mainly in the “further education” sector that provides vocational skills and certification. They were closed after 2010, when Home Office evidence showed many Indian and other non-EU “students” enrolled with them were working instead of studying.
Overall, there has been a drop of more than 50% in Indian students since 2010, but ministers told Parliament this week that after the crackdown on bogus colleges, the number of Indian students going to universities – instead of further education colleges – had gone up.
Responding to a debate on international students at Westminster Hall, immigration minister Robert Goodwill said: “The proportion of Indian students coming to study in the UK at a university increased from around 50% in 2010 to around 90% in 2015.
“This trend of smaller volumes of students with greater concentrations in higher education is likely to reflect the recent policy changes to clamp down on immigration abuse by non-genuine students and bogus colleges.”
The same figures were cited by minister of state for home Susan Williams in the House of Lords at the end of a debate that included a forceful intervention by Karan Bilimoria, who regretted that official rhetoric about student visas was adversely affecting a successful export sector.
Another reason for the drop in Indian students was the closure in 2012 of the post-study work visa, popular among self-financing Indian students, who used it to gain work experience after their courses and to recover some of the cost of their study and stay.
According to latest figures from the Higher Education Statistics Agency, the number of Indian students fell from 39,090 in 2010-11 to 18,320 in 2014-15.
Industrialist Swraj Paul told the House of Lords: “This is the time to really encourage overseas students to come here. Not only do they benefit from the experience, but our own students benefit by interacting with people from different backgrounds.
“However, encouraging more overseas students is at odds with current immigration policy, so we have to find ways to make sure that they return to their own countries when their studies end.”
Bilimoria, who has been vocal inside and outside Parliament on the need to make it easier for Indian students to come to Britain, told the House: “The government needs to change their attitude towards international students, because the impact of Brexit and the uncertainty it has caused are damaging the higher education sector, and the government’s attitude is harmful and undermining.
“I think that the attitude to immigration is economically illiterate and that the government’s attitude to international students is economically super-illiterate.”