An initiative to encourage 25,000 British students to travel to India over the next five years will help to “future-proof the UK-India relationship”, Greg Clark, the universities minister, said.
The Generation-UK India scheme was announced in a speech to the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry in Delhi by Mr Clark, who said it would “help to create a more globally competitive UK workforce”.
Students will be invited to travel to the subcontinent to work as teaching assistants in schools or as interns with companies, or to join a fortnight-long “cultural immersion” placement offering study and work opportunities. The first placements will begin next summer and will be managed by the British Council.
Mr Clark’s trip is taking place amid concern about the drop in the number of Indian learners coming to the UK to study. Enrolment has halved over two years and is expected to continue to fall, with many blaming the removal of the post-study work route in 2012.
However, far fewer students go in the opposite direction for study, with just 86 British nationals enrolling at Indian universities during 2012.
Lord Bilimoria, the founding chairman of the UK-India Business Council, said nations had to be “be open-minded, world aware [and] outward looking” in a globalised economy.
“We need our students to go out and experience the world and experience countries like India,” he said. “That’s going to help our students better themselves, become more competitive and give them the huge advantage in life, which gives Britain a huge advantage.”
Placements arranged under the scheme will last for up to six months. Participants will be asked to cover the costs of their flights and visa but will have accommodation provided. They will also receive a contribution towards their food and travel costs.
Rob Lynes, director of the British Council in India, said: “Student mobility is a proven means of building long-lasting ties between nations, but currently the UK welcomes around 300 Indian students for every British student going to India. That imbalance needs to be addressed.”
During his trip to India, Mr Clark also announced two UK-India research partnerships, including one focusing on crop genomics and technologies, co-funded with up to £10 million of investment from the UK’s Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and India’s Department of Biotechnology.
The second partnership focuses on historical research. A memorandum of understanding has been signed by the UK’s Arts and Humanities Research Council and the Indian Council of Historical Research.