I agree with your conclusions about Prime Minister David Cameron’s potentiallyencouraging statement in India on student visas (“Talk of fair play is not enough”, Leader, 21 February). While it is reassuring to hear that more Indian students should be able to study in the UK, Cameron will first have to reverse the UK Border Agency’s current bullying attitude towards the colleges.
In a House of Lords debate in January, Lord Taylor of Holbeach, the new Home Office junior minister, was in a minority of one among almost 30 speakers who complained about the effects of government policy on the universities. The Home Office is trying not to listen, but it will eventually have to recognise the overwhelming evidence in favour of business and education. Even having eliminated the “bogus” colleges, it is still hunting for culprits to meet the immigration cap and reciting the “genuine students” mantra.
As you report, Indian student numbers in the UK fell by 23.5 per cent in 2011-12. I have visited one London college with all the necessary credentials - approved Tier 4 sponsor, highly trusted sponsor and educational oversight status - which suffered an 80 per cent fall in student numbers last year because of the government’s attitude. How can it survive?
And other countries in the subcontinent with strong historical connections with the UK are affected, too, such as Nepal, which has around 30 million people and many highly qualified students.
The coalition’s current policy is costing this country hundreds of millions in revenue, and it must change.
Earl of Sandwich
House of Lords
Reading the international media, it would appear that the UK is unwittingly deterring foreign students, particularly Indian, from coming to its shores to further their education. The confusion surrounding its visa policies would certainly put off many from applying, which would be a shame given that British universities are increasingly relying on foreign students to bolster their financial, academic and cultural influence (in fact, more than 15 per cent of the UK’s student body is international).
David Cameron has recently been in India on a mission to forge better relations with the business community, but cross-border collaborations should not be limited to business alone.
Having worked in higher education for more than 20 years, I have seen (and encouraged) a dramatic shift towards international education, during which the likes of New York University and Manchester Business School have opened up satellite campuses in the Middle East and Asia. In Dubai’s International Academic City, we have gone one step further to pioneer an education cluster of 26 academic institutions from 11 countries with a vision of developing the region’s talent pool and cultivating a knowledge- based economy. In stark contrast with the UK, the United Arab Emirates embraces international education as the norm and as such has streamlined its student visa process. There are now 132 nationalities studying in the UAE, and one in three students is Indian.
Just like the UK, we have enjoyed a strong relationship with India for many years and acknowledge the importance of the Indian workforce to the UAE economy. We are actively encouraging the best and the brightest from that country and from around the world to come and study, train, work and contribute to our knowledge economy. The UK’s loss is the UAE’s gain.
Head of TECOM Investments’ Education Cluster