UK govt looks to strengthen its partnership with Indian varsities
The UK’s focus on India comes at a time when France has announced plans to welcome 30,000 Indian students by 2030
The UK will continue with its annual target of attracting at least 600,000 international students with a focus on bolstering collaboration with Indian universities by offering dual degrees and joint research programmes, British officials familiar with the development said on Monday.
India accounts for the largest cohort of international students in the UK with 16,185 visas being issued between April and June this year.
The considerable overlap between India’s National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 and the UK government’s international education strategy could further strengthen these ties, said Steve Smith, the UK Government’s International Education Champion, on the sidelines of the inaugural session of the two-day India-UK Higher Education Conference in Delhi.
“It is my remit to grow the number of international students and there is no limit on the number of international students coming. I think there is a lot of noise at the moment. But the key point is the target remains at least 600,000 students a year to come to the UK. And we are meeting that and that’s not changed. So there’s a lot of noise about it. I do realize that but the UK government’s target remains the same,” he added.
The remarks come days after spokesperson for UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak reportedly told media that Britain has no plans to change its approach to reducing net migration in order to help secure a free trade deal (FTA) with India. “The prime minister believes that the current levels of migration are too high ... To be crystal clear, there are no plans to change our immigration policy to achieve this free trade agreement and that includes student visas,” the spokesperson told journalists on September 7, according to news agency Reuters.
On Monday, British Council’s India director, Alison Barrett, said that the UK is really excited about having talented young people from many countries around the world come to the UK.
“We are excited that they choose the UK as a destination. And, it is something that we want to continue encouraging,” she said.
“The British Council is looking forward to convening university leaders from the UK and India yet again this year. The India-UK Higher Education Conference will serve as an opportunity to build upon the constructive discussions and initiatives from last year, which have further strengthened educational partnerships between the two countries,” Barrett said.
She also said that this year the British Council will be announcing the Industry Academia grants which will support closer industry links in curriculum and course development that will enhance the capacity to create future-ready, job-ready graduates.
The UK’s focus on India comes at a time when France has announced plans to welcome 30,000 Indian students by 2030 and Germany has also increased the intake of Indian students, with 2022-23 marking an increase of 26%.
The Conference is being organised by the British Council as a part of the largest-ever higher education delegation from the UK to India comprising 31 higher education representatives from the UK, visiting the country for 5 days from 18-22 Sep.
Smith said that the focus of the delegation is to deepen the already extensive relations between UK and Indian institutions. “This is the third such delegation and the largest ever and this time, we are focused on partnering UK institutions with Indian institutions. The future of education worldwide is moving more and more towards the international side, rather than just the bilateral. So what we’ve got here is a group of institutions, all of whom wish to link with fellow institutions in India.This trip is about deepening and it’s making it two way. It’s not about students coming to the UK, it is also about building partnerships here,” he said.
A total of 83 higher education institutions from the UK are already collaborating with their fellow institutions in India either in the form of offering dual under the University Grants Commission (UGC) 2022 regulations, or research collaborations.
On the possibility of a UK-based university being willing to step-up campus in India under the upcoming UGC guidelines, Smith said that they will have to get the regulations sorted on both sides before making any decision. “We are also very interested, by the way, in the prospect of Indian institutions coming into the UK, especially the IITs. I hope it’s that internationalization model, which works both ways. So, we are certainly open to the idea of branch campuses, and there will be some institutions here that will have it at the back of their mind,” he said.
Two top IITs are already setting up their campuses abroad, including IIT-Delhi in Abu Dhabi and IIT-Madras in Zanzibar.