UK slipping as higher education destination for Indians

The United Kingdom (UK, which was once once a magnet for international students in search of quality higher education, is fast losing its sheen as a preferred higher education destination for Indians too. This is mainly due to tighter immigration laws and the impact of Brexit.

About 2-3 lakh students from India take up higher studies overseas. Only a fraction of this stream of students choose UK as their education destination and the numbers are steadily declining. Students prefer to go to the US, Australia and other countries in Europe like France and Germany.

There has been a sharp fall in the number of applicants for courses in the UK. From almost 55,000 students two to three years ago, the number of UK-bound students has dropped to 10,000. Some universities reported as much as a 35% decline in Indian students last year alone.

This is because of two main reasons. The first is that The UK has tightened its migration laws. It has become stringent about reducing its net migration from two to three lakh to under one lakh people. The other is the UK’s decision to leave the European Union. Since 2012, the UK’s visa policies dictated that once students complete their courses, they had four months to find a job in the discipline they had studied and earn a minimum salary of £20,000.

Naveen Chopra, co-founder of The Chopras, a New Delhi-based consultancy that facilitates admissions, says the British education sector is suffering because of this decision. The Chopras says middle-income students are dropping out as they can’t stay on to get jobs and clear loans. “Those with limited means are no longer applying because of strict visa policies. Once a course is over, students want to work in the UK to be able to pay off education loans and that isn’t happening now. Brexit is also a factor in this decline.

From sending about 4,000 students two years ago, the consultancy now sends about 1,700 students, he says.

Richard Davies, Pro-Vice Chancellor for Engagement and Internationalization says that the drop in number of Indian students at Newcastle University has been significant – from 108 last year to 71 this year across graduate-level programmes.

“It is hard to attribute this decline to one factor alone but we are very unhappy with this 35% decline in Indian students. In addition to the visa issue, Brexit is another as well as British PM Theresa May plans to scrutinize student visas further,” said Davies

Lord Karan Bilimoria, Chancellor of the University of Birmingham, says that the current government’s decision to crack down on visas is “economically illiterate,” adding that “the government has made a huge mistake in trying to reduce net migration. This decision is very damaging to our economy.”

The number of Indian students at the University of Sheffield has fallen since 2012.

Ajay Sukhwani, director of Edwise International in Mumbai, which is an appointed representative of some British universities, says there’s only single-digit growth in the number of Indian students going to the UK this year.

“There has been a 35% drop since 2012 and guesstimates say only 10,000 students now go from here to study in the UK.”

[With inputs from The Economic Times]

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