Indian students who were planning to study at universities in the UK have been left worried and confused over the Brexit vote about a month ago, along with emerging reports on the current UK PM, Theresa May’s proposal to enforce stricter visa norms for foreign students, in order to tighten the noose on the rate of immigration to the UK. A spokesperson for the UK Government states that the enforcement agencies have cracked down on the abuse of immigration system by substandard educational institutions since the year 2010 that were causing potential harm to the country’s reputation as a destination for world-class education. The spokesperson went on to add that the government will continue to welcome international students of high calibre and talent, who have been accepted into the country’s leading premier institutions while continuing to provide highly competitive offers for choosing to study in the UK.
Keeping in line with the more conservative visa norms, the UK government has announced a 2-year pilot visa scheme for international students who wish to pursue a 2-year Master’s degree from the universities of Bath, Cambridge, Oxford and the Imperial College London. Officially known as the Tier 4 Visa (Pilot Scheme) that has recently been introduced by the UK Home Office, it allows foreign students to work for a period of six months post course completion and is applicable for intakes in academic years starting September of 2016 and 2017.
Education experts opine that Indian students might find it difficult to pursue Master’s in the UK. Sarosh Zaiwalla, a lawyer from the UK, stated that the move comes after May’s commitment to curbing the net migration to less 100,000 and aims to bring in highly talented and competitive foreign students to the UK. May, as per Zaiwalla, is going as per her previous crackdown on dubious colleges in the UK while limiting visas for foreign students coming to the UK. May has recently announced that her officials are preparing for another round of crackdowns on such universities amid growing concerns that educational route has become the easiest route for international students to migrate and work in the UK.
Officials working for May strongly believe that migration could be curbed considerably by restricting the number of foreign students coming to the UK for higher studies.
Educational experts have also opined that when the visa regulations for students become harsher, it leads to a decline in the number of foreign students applying for student visas. Times Higher Education’s Carly Minsky stated that there was a considerable decline in the number of Indian students applying for higher studies in the UK post the clampdown on visa sponsorships and applications that were fraudulent in nature in 2011. This number further declined when the Home Office, in the year 2012, announced the end of the 2-year work visa extended to foreign students, post course completion. Minsky further added to her comment that the numbers will continue to experience a downward slope with further restrictions on student visas.
Visa requirements for foreign students are very strict when it comes to pre-requisites for qualifications, university sponsorships and financial soundness. As per the new rules introduced for foreign students in the year 2012, foreign students are not entitled to stay back in the UK after course completion. While it has been May’s government’s undertaking to curb the number of foreign students coming to the UK for higher studies, UK’s Home Office is running a pilot student visa scheme that will relax the visa restrictions for foreign students who enrol with UK’s top four universities. Minsky went on to comment that such a move would reduce the paperwork and documentation required for foreign students, who can stay back in the country for a period of six months post course completion and apply for Tier 2 Visa for Skilled workers, should they find employment during this period. Adding to her comments, Minsky stated that Boris Johnson had proposed a work visa under the Commonwealth category last year, which could have benefitted students from India and increased the declining number of enrolments into colleges in the UK, however, she feels that it might not help in the near term if the attitude and policies of the current government continue to persist.
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