University chiefs demand return of post-study visas

After three years of continuous slump in the number of Indian students choosing the United Kingdom, you would expect the thumbs-up for Brexit last June to have sent the numbers on a further slide in 2016. Not quite. Figures put out by the British High Commission in Delhi last week show that roughly 11,300 tier-4 student visas were issued to Indian students in 2016, a small 2% increase over the previous year.
The good news, however, may well end there, with UK Prime Minister Theresa May’s rigid stance of including overseas students in immigration figures. May has been tightening immigration rules to bring the numbers down. The most recent diktat is that anyone keen to bring spouse and children to the UK needs to earn a minimum of £18,600 (Rs 15 lakh) annually to avoid burdening taxpayers.

The increase in student visas — by about 450 — may fly in the face of May’s palpable obsession with immigration, but there may be isolated reasons for the upward tick. One, scholarships for Indian students in the UK are on the up. “We are committed to ensuring our top universities are a magnet for the best students from around the world. There remains no limit on the number of genuine international students who can come to study in the UK. Also, the UK offers a wide range of scholarships for India.

This may well be a short-term bump, and the onus is on the UK government to treat students differently from other immigrants. To be sure, May is under pressure from MPs across parties to treat international students as temporary rather than permanent migrants. “The UK was and remains among the most preferred destinations for Indian students because of many reasons, including the strength of UK-India relationship.

However, we do feel that for a holistic change in perception, it will take stronger efforts on the part of the UK government to demonstrate a further understanding of the requirements of the Indian student — especially the need to obtain temporary work visas to acquire work experience, which is part of educational requirement,” says Sanam Arora, president, National Indian Students and Alumni Union, an organisation representing Indian students, alumni and working professionals of Indian origin in ..