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Strict UK visa rules to affect Indian students

Kalpana Pathak & Vinay Umarji  |  Mumbai 

However, deserving candidates need not fear losing out on quality education in renowned institutes.

If the UK government's review of its visa norms was not enough to send Indian students looking at other destinations, the shutting down of institutes may bring the numbers further down. Besides, the US is getting more serious about attracting international students.

Till 2010, student visa allocation for the UK declined by six per cent. In April, UK did away with the Tier I Post Study Work (PSW) visa. The UK Border Agency confirmed that changes in the student visa rules will result in fewer visa applications.

“The UK government is committedto minimising abuse of the student immigration system, while ensuring support for the brightest and best students to continue to study at UK’s highest quality education institutions. Closure of the PSW was triggered by an increase in abuse in the private education sector in the UK. It was found that there was increasing abuse in the private further education sector (by some, but not all colleges), so the reforms were targeted at those institutions where change was considered to be most necessary,” said Sam Murray, regional communications manager, UK Border Agency, South Asia.

Since May 2010, the UK Border Agency has revoked the licenses of 97 Tier 4 UK education providers. A further 36 currently have their licenses suspended, said a UK Border Agency Spokesperson in India.

“The recent shut down of Training and Advanced Studies in and Communications (TASMAC)'s London campus last week is due to tighter visa restrictions implemented by the United Kingdom Border Agency (UKBA),” said Sameer Dua, joint managing director, TASMAC group.

On March 22, 2011, the UK Home Secretary, Theresa May, announced sweeping changes to Tier 4 student route for migration. She said from April 2012 all institutions wanting to sponsor foreign students would have to be classfied as a Highly Trusted Sponsor by the UK Border Agency and would need to be inspected by an approved educational oversight body.

The UK government wants the brightest and best international students to come to the UK to study in its high quality education institutions. These changes to accreditation and inspection requirements protect legitimate students and ensure that only those education providers with a proven track record in immigration compliance will be licensed to bring international students to the UK.

“In the event that a student is already in the UK and his or her sponsor surrenders its license or has its licence withdrawn, the student will usually have 60 days to find an alternative education provider in the UK. If the student has less than six months left his or her leave will not be reduced,” the spokesperson added.

UK Border Agency in an email said it was important for international students to receive the standard of education that they deserve and have paid for. This is why the UK government, in its first stage of reforms to the student visa system, has increased accreditation requirements for sponsors and extended robust inspection arrangements to private sector providers.

“The tightening of visa requirements by Australia and the UK is making them less attractive destinations for students as they see lower prospects for future jobs and immigration. Also, budget cuts in the US public institutions are prompting them to recruit international students more actively as an additional source of revenue,” said Rahul Choudaha, director of development and innovation at World Education Services in New York.

International student enrollment in higher education in Australia and the UK grew by 81 per cent and 47 per cent respectively between 2002 and 2009, as compared to 18 per cent in the US. In absolute terms, Australia, the UK and US each added nearly 100,000 students over the same period.

“This translates into comparatively slow growth for the US, given that the size of the American higher education system is 17 times that of Australia and eight times that of the UK,” explains Choudaha.

According to Choudaha, some of the early reports for autumn 2011 show a significant increase in international student enrollment at US universities. For example, at the University of Iowa first-time freshmen international student enrolment reached record levels of 484 this year, compared to 388 last year. Likewise, at Arkansas State University international student enrollment for autumn 2011 passed 1,000 students for the first time. Last year 780 international students enrolled.

According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) number of internationally mobile students grew by 1.6 million between 2000 and 2009. Choudaha says this trend will continue to be driven by the increasing ability of prospective students in countries like China and India to afford foreign higher education.

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First Published: Thu, October 13 2011. 00:01 IST