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Blair reassures Indian students

UK PM Tony Blair tells Indian students that its new immigration system would be easier and fairer.

india Updated: Mar 08, 2006 13:33 IST
Indo-Asian News Service
Indo-Asian News Service

Prime Minister Tony Blair told a group of students in India via videophone that the new points-based immigration system would make it "easier and fairer" for them to study in Britain.

Under the new system, all English language schools will need to be accredited and listed on the Department for Education and Skills' register if they want to admit overseas students.

Blair told the students that the system unveiled Tuesday would ensure that "highly skilled" workers needed by Britain would still be able to migrate, but added that the new rules were necessary to prevent "abuses" of the system.

"We want students to come and study in our universities and we want highly skilled workers that we need for our economy, but we want to prevent abuses of the immigration system," he said.

"We have benefited enormously from migration in our country and the Indian community has made a huge contribution. I hope that you will find it both easier and also fairer."

Students from India comprise one of the largest groups of overseas students in the British universities. They are valued for their commitment to studies and the experiences they contribute to the overall student experience.

During the conference, Sir Michael Arthur, the British high commissioner in New Delhi, introduced students who hoped to study in Britain and said about 17,000 Indians had recently studied in Britain - a figure that had risen from 5,000 five years ago.

During the video conference, Blair was joined by Home Secretary Charles Clarke and senior higher education officials.

"Foreign workers or students will in future need a UK sponsor to vouch for them, ensuring that business and colleges take responsibility for making sure foreign workers and students comply with visa rules," Clarke said.

Diana Warwick, the chief executive of Universities UK, which represents vice-chancellors, said the points-based process should lead to a "fairer and more efficient" immigration system.

Britain will hold talks with the Home Office over the next few months to ensure the detailed proposals "facilitate the entry of international students and staff to the British universities".

"Perception is all important so it is vital for our universities and the economy that Britain offers a truly welcoming and supportive environment for international students and academics to live and work in," she told The Guardian.

First Published: Mar 08, 2006 13:33 IST