Revised student visas ‘can lift Indo-UK ties’


The UK is in danger of losing its position as a top destination for international students
The UK is in danger of losing its position as a top destination for international students

by LAUREN CODLING

LEADING politicians and businessmen have urged the UK to ease up on student visas for Indians as it could benefit trade relations between the two countries.

In November, it was reported that the majority of Indian students who come to the UK for higher education tend to leave at the end of their degree.

Between April 2016 and April 2017, as many as 7,469 Indian students left before the expiry of their student visas, with only 2,209 choosing to extend their visas to remain in Britain, the Office of National Statistics (ONS) said.

Most recently, prime minister Theresa May had been urged by several prominent figures in society to drop her policy of classifying foreign students as immigrants.

Lord Jitesh Gadhia told Eastern Eye the UK government should review the process of granting overseas students the right to work in Britain after graduation and allow British companies to recruit fresh graduates directly from Indian universities and train them in the UK.

“The UK visa regime permitting, British universities have a unique opportunity to attract more students from India as well as set up campuses in India under proposed legislation,” he said.

“The UK government should redouble efforts to make clear that there are no limits on student numbers,” Lord Gadhia added. “This focus on education will generate a longterm
shared prosperity across generations.”

According to data, Indian students accounted for approximately 9,600 visas granted in 2016 (or seven per cent), but in 2010 they accounted for around one in five of visas
granted at 40,500.

Labour MP Barry Gardiner shared Lord Gadhia’s view, claiming the government needs to address the difficulties of post-grad work visas being granted in the UK.

“We have to understand that being part of a global economy means your citizens travel
around the globe in all directions,” he told Eastern Eye. “Other people’s citizens travel around the globe to you and that is what makes a vibrant economy – that is the bedrock
of it.

“We need that free flow of skills and free flow of people if we need the investment and
trade opportunities maximised.”

On immigration, businessman Bhanu Choudhrie believes the current visa rules will have an impact on trade relations between the two nations.

“At the moment, the [visa] system is too cumbersome, too difficult to navigate,” he said. “The UK should be more welcoming to Indian students, 21,000 of whom study in Britain. Indians revere British schools and universities, but students from India are too often treated with suspicion.”

At present, the UK is the second most popular destination for international students, with four UK universities in the world’s top 10. However, university chiefs have warned of a fall in its popularity due to a perception that the country’s visa policies make it an unwelcome destination.