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Planning to study in the UK? Think twice

The British may have the top universities, but they also offer the most student-hostile government in the world

columns Updated: Sep 09, 2017 18:00 IST
Britain,Immigration,Students
In 2010 around 40,000 Indians were studying in Britain. In just 6 years that number has fallen to less than 17,000 a year.(Shutterstock)

In late November 2014, just as Sabia Singh and her husband Raj were settling down in Britain after having their first child, the government ordered them to pack up and go back to India. Their life was turned into tatters by an accusation, from the government itself, that later turned out to be a lie.

They claimed students like Sabia and thousands like her had fraudulently completed English language tests. But that claim fell apart in court two years later and the government had to apologise.

“They had been accused of a crime they say they didn’t commit, but they were not shown the evidence against them or allowed to respond to it,” one journalist wrote at the time. But the damage to thousands of lives had already been done.

And who was the minister responsible for this debacle? Britain’s current Prime Minister: Theresa May.

Last week in Britain another such debacle came to light. The same department Ms May used to run had to admit it exaggerated the number of Indian students who had overstayed their visa. They had suggested that nearly one lakh students overall had overstayed their visa. But the real figure was near 5,000 students. It was this claim the British government had used for years to make life harder for foreign students.

Now, I grant you this is not the biggest scandal in the world. And much of Britain’s rightwing press rarely cares about the lives of Indian immigrants, so it ignored such scandals. Sabia Singh’s story only came to light via a journalist, Ian Dunt, who passionately defends immigration.

These scandals should serve as a lesson to Indian students: if you’re thinking of coming to study in Britain, think again. You may be better off going to another country: Canada, the United States, Germany, Singapore, Hong Kong, mainland China or even Australia (and believe me, I’m no fan of the Aussie government) may be better options.

The British may have the top universities, but they also offer the most student-hostile government in the world. The Conservative government, in power since 2010, when the number of Indian students started falling drastically, has pledged loudly to reduce immigration into Britain.

To fulfil that pledge they have made life hard as they can for foreign students.

During the application process, for example. One student was denied entry into the country because he was slightly short on cash requirements after the rupee fell against the pound.

They also require ridiculous tests. One student was rejected because he couldn’t remember the library opening timings, another was refused entry because he didn’t know his university’s vice-chancellor’s name.

Triparna Roy, a student currently studying Management in London told me the regulations made companies “more reluctant” to take on people on a student visa. Plus, the government barely gives them four months to find a job after their studies have ended. Then they have to leave. Students frequently say that is not enough time to find a job. And if they don’t leave then they may be breaking the law.

Surprise, surprise - the number of Indian students coming to Britain has fallen sharply since Theresa May was put in charge of monitoring them. In 2010 around 40,000 Indians were studying in Britain. In just 6 years that number has fallen to less than 17,000 a year. Indian students have been the worst hit.

International students are worth over £7 billion to the UK economy every year, according to one recent study. And yet Theresa May, even as Prime Minister, is willing to shoot her country in the foot to soothe its anti-immigration lobby.

Until the UK improves its debate around immigration and accepts that Indian immigrants present an opportunity not a threat, they should take their talents elsewhere.

Sunny Hundal is a writer and lecturer on digital journalism based in London

The views expressed are personal

First Published: Sep 09, 2017 18:00 IST