Visa changes affecting international students coming to the UK

by Ray Clancy on November 5, 2013

Fewer international graduate students from India are opting to study in the UK due to the way visa changes have been reported in the country, according to a survey of universities.

The number of postgraduate applications from Indian students to UK universities with global reputations has fallen by nearly 30% this year in the wake of the UK government’s crackdown on immigration.

A survey of 18 leading universities by Times Higher Education shows there has been an average fall of 8% in Indian postgraduate applications for 2013/2014. This compares with a 6% rise in applications from China.

students UK

Universities suffering a significant fall in Indian postgraduate applications include the University of Exeter, University of Edinburgh and King’s College London.

Universities suffering a significant fall in Indian postgraduate applications include the University of Exeter, down 26.9% from 1,073 to 784, the University of Edinburgh down 27.8% from 1,800 to 1,300, King’s College London down 15.6% from 1,942 to 1,640 and the University of Roehampton down 41.1% from 265 to 156.

For non-European Union students, undergraduate applications have increased by an average of 8.8% for the current academic year compared with the previous year. For postgraduate applications, the rise is 8.9%.

Some universities have separately been critical of immigration policy. They blame the government’s scrapping of the post study work option in April 2012 which was particularly attractive to students from India seeking to earn cash to repay the private loans that underwrite their studies.

‘The removal of the provision has impacted on a number of countries, India, Pakistan and Nigeria in particular,’ said a spokesman for the University of Southampton, where Indian postgraduate applications have fallen by 8.3%.

Students wishing to stay on for work must now qualify through the employment visa route and need the offer of a job paying more than £20,000 a year.

But Bill Rammell, vice chancellor of the University of Bedfordshire, said the fact that international applications have held up reinforces the need for all universities not to exaggerate the impact of government policy, but to present a constructive case on the issue.

It is also tougher for students to get a visa with more interviews for applicants to prove their English skills.

Shaun Curtis, director of International Exeter at the University of Exeter, said he believes that the negative impact of the new visa regime has been limited in scale and scope. ‘Some markets have been affected, most notably the Indian postgraduate taught market. This was largely a result of the way in which the implementation of the new post study work visa has been reported by the Indian press,’ he said.

‘We need a visa system that is robust, proportionate, stable and fair, and better messaging around its implementation, if we are to continue to attract the brightest and the best,’ he added.

Nicola Dandridge, chief executive of Universities UK, pointed out that Higher Education Statistics Agency figures for 2011/2012 show that new overseas enrolments, regarded as the clearest indicator of future numbers, has dropped for the first time in years.

She said that if the UK wants to fulfil its potential in this growth area, it must present a welcoming climate for genuine international students and ensure that visa and immigration rules are properly communicated.

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