Visa regime will hamper student flow into UK

Rachel Sandison, Director of Marketing, Recruitment & International at the University of Glasgow

Rachel Sandison, Director of Marketing, Recruitment & International at the University of Glasgow

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In a week where Prime Ministers Theresa May and Narendra Modi met for the first time at the India-UK Tech Summit, the University of Glasgow’s largest-ever delegation visited India led by the University’s Principal and Vice-Chancellor, Professor Anton Muscatelli.

The 24-strong delegation went to India with the express desire to grow and deepen partnerships with Indian institutions and industry and to visibly show long-term commitment to develop further research collaborations, support capacity building activities, and welcome more Indian talent to Glasgow. The importance of showcasing the university’s world-class research and teaching excellence, and its openness to engaging with India, has never been more important against the backdrop of Brexit and the Westminster government’s anti-immigration rhetoric.

Rachel Sandison, Director of Marketing, Recruitment & International at the University of Glasgow

Rachel Sandison, Director of Marketing, Recruitment & International at the University of Glasgow

Glasgow has a long legacy of partnership with India, with the first Indian University of Glasgow graduate, Gopal Chandra Roy from Bengal, qualifying as a doctor in 1871. Today, developing partnerships exist with the University of Delhi, the University of Calcutta, and ISSER Pune to name but a few, with exciting opportunities being explored with industry partners such as Biocon, India’s largest bio-pharmaceutical company, and Tata Consultancy Services.

The delegation visited five metro cities during the trip – Bangalore, Delhi, Mumbai, Pune and Kolkata – with a focus on academic and business collaboration, staff and student mobility, student recruitment, and alumni engagement activities, with the announcement of more than £100k of new Glasgow scholarships for Indian students.

However, the road ahead for Indo-UK partnership and recruitment is paved with challenge. The university has seen Indian student numbers halve since the removal of the post-study work visa in 2012, and the UK higher education sector as a whole has seen study visas issued to Indian nationals decline by a staggering 82 per cent over the last five year period from a high of 68,238 in 2010.

Unfortunately, recent UK immigration policies promise to be even more damaging to a UK higher education sector whose global market share is already in decline, whilst countries like the US, Australia, Canada and New Zealand profit from growing international student numbers and appeal. Even the Japanese government has set a goal of raising the employment rate of foreign students in Japan from 30 per cent to 50 per cent by 2020. The UK is seen by many as being ‘closed for business’, with Brexit further supporting the opinion that the UK is becoming more insular.

The Delhi smog that enveloped the recent meeting of May and Modi could be argued as a fitting environment for May’s impenetrable position on student immigration. May might see relations with India as being of critical importance to non-European Union trade and investment, but this position is completely overshadowed by her unwillingness to budge from a visa regime that will continue to hamper student flows to the UK. Modi’s government has stated the importance of education for Indian students and the vital role this plays in future engagement with the UK, but with no concessions being made by Westminster we have reached a stalemate.

As one of the five BRICS nations, India is on the brink of being the most populous country on earth and already closely rivals China as the world’s fastest growing major economy. The UK will ignore its longstanding relationship with India at its peril. Without proportionate visa policies to provide the opportunities for staff and student exchange, the UK’s relationship with India may not flourish to the extent to which it has in the past.

Nevertheless, the University of Glasgow remains resolutely global and committed to a future of meaningful partnership and innovation with India. This may have been the University’s first major delegation to India, but it certainly won’t be our last. 
Rachel Sandison, Director of Marketing, Recruitment & International at the University of Glasgow

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