The UK government’s decision not to include India on a list of nations granted access to relaxed student visa requirements has generated anger in the Indian press and been termed “an act of self-harm” by a British thinktank.
The Social Market Foundation highlighted Indian press reports following an announcement by the Home Office on 15 June.
As Times Higher Education reported, India – until recently the second biggest source of non-EU students for UK universities – did not appear on a list of 11 nations added to an existing batch of countries where students applying for higher education courses in the UK benefit from a “streamlined” visa application process.
China, the number one source of non-EU students for UK universities, appears on the new list, as do nations such as Cambodia, Thailand and Mexico.
The addition of the 11 new nations brings the total number of countries on the list to 28.
The Times of India said the UK government had “caused outrage with its decision to exclude Indian students from a new list of countries considered ‘low risk’”, while the Hindustan Times said the move was “likely to harden postures in New Delhi”.
In 2012-13, there were 29,900 enrolments by first-year Indian students at UK universities. But following the Home Office’s decision to abolish post-study work visas in 2012, new Indian student enrolments at UK universities dropped by 45 per cent to 16,550 in 2016-17, according to Higher Education Statistics Agency data.
That means India is far behind China and now behind the USA and Hong Kong in terms of new enrolments at UK universities.
James Kirkup, SMF director, said: “International students bring funding into Britain’s world-class universities, help build this country’s standing around the world and are welcomed by the majority of British voters.
“Including them in any immigration cap is a mistake. Being seen to discriminate against Indian students is an act of economic and diplomatic self-harm.
“Brexit means it is more important than ever for Britain to demonstrate that it is economically and intellectually open to the world. This decision sends the wrong message to India and its students.”
A Home Office spokeswoman said: “We welcome Indian students who want to come to the UK to study at our world-leading educational institutions. We issue more visas to students from India than any other country except China and the USA.”