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Exclusion of Indian students: British MPs call for new approach towards international students

The Home Office has announced plans to relax student visa document requirements for students from a number of countries including China but excluding India.

November 06, 2018 06:06 pm | Updated 06:06 pm IST

Photo: Twitter/@APPGIS

Photo: Twitter/@APPGIS

A cross-party group of British Parliamentarians are calling for the government to overhaul the way it approaches international students, pointing to the controversy over the exclusion of Indian students from a relaxation of documentation rules as an instance of the negative impact on policy on perceptions and student numbers.

The All Party Parliamentary Group on students — an unofficial group of Members of the House of Lords and House of Commons — released a report on November 6 calling for the British government to set a “clear and ambitious” target to grow the number of international students in the U.K., not only removing students from net migration targets but also reintroducing a post-study work visa for up to two years of work. “At present the U.K. unlike many of its competitors does not have a target to increase the number of international students… this fundamentally influences the nature of student migration policy,” reads the report, which outlines 12 practical steps it believes would help boost Britain’s attractiveness to foreign students based on oral and written evidence gathered from an inquiry launched in July.

“Increasingly restrictive policies and procedures over the last eight years have discouraged many international students from applying to the U.K.,” said MP Paul Blomfield, co-chair of the APPG. “It’s time for us to move on and target growth in the number of international students,” said Lord Bilimoria, the cross-bench member of the House of Lords and founder of Cobra Beer, who noted that Canada now outpaced Britain when it came to attracting Indian students. “British universities used to lead the world in attracting international students. But now all our major competitors are growing at a rate far greater than us, and in areas where we have seen the greatest decline.”

The British government has come under increasing pressure to reform its international students regime: In September, the body representing British universities urged the introduction of a post-study work visa that was dropped by the Conservative government in 2012 and is seen as one of many factors contributing to numbers of international students in the U.K. remaining flat, even as numbers have grown elsewhere.

Britain’s policy on international students has also overshadowed its relations with India: numbers of Indian students has fallen sharply in recent years, which the government has sought to put down to its crackdown on bogus colleges but which critics believe is closely linked to a tough policy regime that has both made it more difficult for students to come here and discouraged many from applying in the first place.

Earlier this year, the Home Office announced plans to relax student visa document requirements for students from a number of countries including China but excluding India. However, its explanation — that the risk profile associated with Indian students remained high — heightened tensions with India which has long disputed Britain’s assessment that India account for the largest number of individuals overstaying their visa in the U.K.

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