Despite Britain’s stringent visa rules, increased unemployment rate and appreciation of the pound against the rupee, the share of applications from genuine Indian students (those going for quality education, professional value addition and so forth) remains intact.
The number of Indian students to the UK rose from 38,500 in 2009-10 to 39,100 in 2010-11, even as the number to the US fell from 104,897 to 103,895.
However, the number of student visa grants has been around 62 per cent less in the first quarter of 2012, according to the UK government. With the pound rising from Rs 70 to Rs 85 in recent months, the cost of education and living for Indian students has escalated 20 per cent. The unemployment rate there has risen from 7.9 per cent in the first quarter last year to 8.2 per cent for the same quarter this year. However, it is witnessing a decreasing trend now, after 8.4 per cent in January-February.
Recently, the UK has also reduced the earlier two-year PSW (post study work) visa to just a four-month extension after study. However, it has become easier for Indian students to get hired. Earlier, recruiters in the UK had to prove they were hiring Indian nationals only because there was none suitable from a European Union country for that specific job. Now, recruiters are allowed to hire Indian nationals at a base annual salary of £20,000.
“Hence, the number of UK-going students from the upper strata has not declined. For them, going for quality education is still a priority, and this segment is undeterred by the market turbulence,” Naveen Chopra, chairman, Chopras Consultants, Delhi, which advises students in this regard for a fee, told Business Standard.
Students going to Britain can be broadly categorised in three socio-economic groups. One is the upper class and another the middle and upper-middle class professionals. The third is the category which barely manages to arrange money to get into foreign institutions, and uses a student visa only as a medium to get into the UK.
Rough estimates suggest each of these three categories is around the same size of the total pie. The third category has largely been of people from Gujarat, Punjab and Andhra Pradesh. The second and third categories have been severely impacted by the new and stringent visa rules and the appreciation of the pound, says Chopra. The drop has been varying across universities as well, with the old and reputed ones not having faced any slowing in student applications.
The changes in visa rules are aimed only at fake student-visa users and the UK government says it is making efforts to ensure undeterred applications from genuine Indian and other non-EU students. The UK Border Agency has categorised institutions and the onus is on the latter to sieve out fake students.
According to Arun Jacob, managing director, ArrayGlobe Educational Consultants, Hyderabad, “It’s not a great time to go to the UK for studies, owing to the pound appreciation, rising unemployment and new visa rules. But these are cyclical trends of the market, and will come and go. The US continues to be a strong host and favourite destination for outgoing students. Canada, Australia and New Zealand are also picking up.”