Reflecting concerns of many vice-chancellors over the drop in Indian students at UK universities in recent years, Oxford University vice-chancellor Andrew Hamilton has questioned why such a ‘hostile’ visa system had been adopted, and said the issue baffled him.
Delivering his annual Oration on Tuesday, Hamilton said: “Wherever I travel in the world, particularly in China and India, one question persists. Why has the UK adopted a visa system so hostile to student entry? I do my best to answer but, frankly, the question baffles me as well”.
He told the Congregation at Oxford: “For the first time in decades, the number of international students at our universities has dropped, most markedly from India. Why are we doing this to them – and to ourselves?”
The number of students from India has dropped considerably since tighter restrictions were introduced by the David Cameron government since 2010, particularly the closure of the post-study work visa in 2012, as part of its plans to reduce immigration.
According to Hamilton, the student visa system was harming UK interests. He noted that research by Oxford’s Migration Observatory had shown that the British public did not link overseas student numbers with immigration, which is one of the major issues in the 2015 general elections.
He said: “Study is the least frequent answer given when the public are asked what they consider the motives for migration to be.”