Indian students would prefer to come to Britain for higher studies but visa restrictions had led to dwindling numbers in recent years, Indian high commissioner Navtej Sarna said here on Tuesday.
Speaking at a joint Commonwealth and Indo-British All Party Parliamentary Groups in the House of Lords, Sarna apprised MPs and lords of various initiatives of the Narendra Modi government to boost trade between the two countries, and highlighted plans for Indo-UK Year of Culture in 2017.
“I was in Oxford the other day and was somewhat disappointed that there are only 373 Indian students there. This could be easily increased, but some UK visa difficulties are making other destinations such as Australia and New Zealand more attractive”, he said.
Sarna told the lawmakers that the Indian college-going population was nearly 140 million, many of whom would prefer to go to British universities. Indian student numbers have halved since the David Cameron government came to office in 2010.
Nearly 100 British academics are scheduled to travel to India under the GIAN programme, Sarna said, besides plans to send around 20,000 British students to India. The GIAN programme aims to augment the country’s existing academic resources, accelerate the pace of quality reform, and elevate India’s scientific and technological capacity to global excellence.
The India-UK relationship in the area of education had achieved much in recent years, he added.
Sarna recalled that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had an “extremely successful” meeting with representatives of the Sikh diaspora during his visit here in November.
Efforts were on to double trade between India and Britain, Sarna said, and highlighted moves to float rupee bonds – dubbed ‘masala bonds’ – on the London Stock Exchange to raise funds for railways and infrastructure development in India.