For most students in India, getting admission to elite institutions. such as Oxford and Cambridge, London School of Economics, Imperial College, London and University College, London, has always been a dream. But stringent visa rules in the UK, prohibiting students from taking up jobs after their studies have made many look for other options for higher studies. The number of Indian students joining UK universities has dropped from 68,238 in 2010 to 11,864 this year.
The city students had hoped that visiting UK Premier Theresa May would reverse the new student visa norms, which mandate that all students return to their countries after completing their studies, but she didn’t.
This rigid stand has left them with no choice but to opt for countries such as like Australia, Ireland, Canada and so on, even though UK is known for having the world's best educational institutes and the pound exchange rate is at an all-time low.
Quality Vs Visa regulations: According to academicians, one of the advantages of UK universities, colleges is that they are known for quality education for centuries and admission into one of these institutes is considered a lifetime achievement for thousands of Indian students.
“There are concerns expressed about the quality of education offered from institutes in China, US etc. Last year hundreds of Indian students were duped by an American university. Many advisories were issued against universities and institutes from other parts of the world, but UK is generally known for its quality. That’s why most UK universities and colleges head the popularity charts of students,” said Dr Janardhana Bhat, an academician.
According to the new student Visa policy, all those students who join various courses in UK must return to their home country once they complete their studies. “One of the reasons for Indian students preferring higher education in developed countries like UK or US is that it’s easy to get a work permit. But UK’s new policy is discouraging,” he explained.
Engineering, social science courses preferred
Most Indian students in UK colleges are opting for courses in Business Management, Engineering and Social Sciences. They are the third largest student community in England after students from US and China.
According to several independent counselors who are working as country representatives for UK institutes, they were expecting more students from India to come to UK to study this year following the de-valuation of the Pound. “But unfortunately the visa-related controversy has hit the admission process hard,” explained an agent.
“Strict UK Visa rules are motivating the students to explore educational and job opportunities in New Zealand, China and Ireland. Even the UAE has joined the race. Recently universities from Nez Zealand have come out with attractive offers to the students, including scholarships and job opportunities,” he said.
According to Ms. Shaila Venkatesh, an M Tech graduate from VTU, even though UK is her first choice for her doctoral studies, recent developments have forced her to explore other avenues in Australia and Germany.
“I am planning to pursue my doctoral education in artificial intelligence. It is easy to get admission in UK universities. Even the course fee is moderate. But this visa rule really affects us. US universities are better, keeping in mind job prospects. Australian and German governments have flexible student Visa norms. Career is the ultimate goal of all students. How can UK deny us a work Visa,” she questioned.
But some experts feel that dedicated students still prefer UK universities for quality. “Those who are interested in research generally do not think about the work or visa-related clauses. UK universities are known for their scholarship programmes, research and developmental activities,” explains Suchitra Damle, a researcher who recently returned from a UK college after three months of internship.
Meanwhile, the Union Human Resources Ministry is expected to pursue the issue with the British government. “The issue is already being raised in several forums. Indian students can make an important contribution to the higher education sector of UK. If the number of students decreases it will impact both India and UK. We will raise the issue in an appropriate forum,” said an officer from MHRD.
A representative for one of the universities from UK told this newspaper that immigration-related concerns has forced the British government to come out with stringent visa norms.
“We are expecting even stricter norms in the coming days. Actually the UK government has not fixed any upper limit on the number of student Visas. The confusion mainly surrounds the work-permit-related issues. Those students who want to join universities like Oxford, Cambridge and LSE are not complaining about the changed norms. Admission procedure in these universities/institutes is very strict. Students who join these universities look beyond a work permit. Those students who are planning to pursue courses like the MBA are lodging complaints,” he explained.
For serious students, UK still a preferred destination: Muralidhara H. Kumar
The Karnataka government as well as the Central government have already raised their concerns over the new visa norms announced by UK for both students as well as the IT professionals.
But I feel the UK government is expected to continue with these stringent norms, as it was introduced after national deliberation. Within UK there was a huge demand for such guidelines.
Every year thousands of students from India join various universities of UK.
There are allegations regarding misuse of clauses in the students’ visa. This was evident following the sudden drop in the number of students joining UK universities.
According to my experience those students who are really serious about higher education in UK universities are not too disturbed by these new clauses. Their target is getting admission in Oxford, Cambridge or London School of Economics.
One of the common questions we hear during the students’ admission counseling is whether a student visa will held them get a job. All the European countries are facing migrant issues. In such a scenario they are left with no option other than tightening visa norms. I feel UK is still the best place for higher education with world class institutions and hundreds of scholarship schemes for talented young researchers....