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UK policy ‘economically illiterate’ for India relations

Indians at UK - Economic Outlook
  • Speaking at the launch of the National Indian Students and Alumni Union’s Achievers Honours in Westminster, Bilimoria said, “We’re damaging our whole economy by having this hostile approach, let alone our international appeal.
  • “Raising the minimum [skilled worker visa] salary threshold to nearly £40,000? What an economically illiterate move that is for our economy.”
  • Bilimoria first proposed a two-year post-study visa for the UK to the House of Lords back in 2007.
  • He was joined at the launch by fellow parliamentarians including Virendra Sharma, Jo Johnson, Gareth Thomas, and Navendu Mishra in a demonstration of cross-party solidarity for the invaluable ‘human bridge’ that connects India and the UK through international education.
  • A broad representation of universities, pathway partners, testing solutions, Indian press delegates, and Home Office officials were also in attendance.
  • Gareth Thomas, current shadow minister for trade said, “The truth is that we need the relationship between Britain and India to get deeper because Britain’s economy needs to grow and grow quickly.
  • “India is going to be one of the great powerhouses [in business terms], over the next 20 years, and Britain needs to deepen our relationship quickly with India to take advantage of it.”
  • As reported in The PIE, British universities have seen a decline or flatlining of Indian student enrolments in September with further falls predicted for January.
  • Sanam Arora, the chairperson for NISAU, explained that the fall was a direct result of the unwelcoming message already being communicated to prospective Indian students.
  • “When the dependency policy was announced earlier in the year, I believe that [triggered] a 60% fall in student numbers coming from India, according to emerging data,” said Arora.
  • “The students we speak to [at NISAU] are feeling like cash cows, to be quite blunt. I fear that we’re going to go downhill to around 35,000 [Indian students coming to the UK per year] as we saw between 2000-2013.”
  • NISAU was formed as a student association in the wake of a widespread government crackdown on compliance in 2012 which included London Metropolitan University losing its sponsor licence and the first post-study work visa route being removed entirely.
  • Many Indian students were left in limbo with their finances and immigration status left in disarray.
  • “It feels like a bit of deja vu,” recalled Arora.
  • [Eleven years ago] nearly a thousand colleges and universities lost their global sponsor status overnight. [This was also done] in a bid for better compliance but what wasn’t foreseen was the impact that that would have on tens of thousands of international students and their families.
  • “Forget consumer rights – at times it was a case of whether their human rights were being looked after,” Arorar continued.
  • The latest government announcement that the Graduate Route is to be reviewed has understandably unsettled the sector as it struggles to manage the message.
  • It comes despite the UK reaching a landmark recognition of qualifications with India in 2022, as part of the priority country mandate from the international education strategy.
  • The PIE spoke to Dhananjay Thakare, a former Indian civil servant, now studying for a master’s in public policy at LSE, on the policy changes.

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