Studying in a global city

Written by Vikram Chaudhary | Updated: Oct 29 2012, 07:10am hrs
London is reinventing itself as an international study destination. Recently, London Universities International Partnership chose 30 students from India and the US who will become student ambassadors for London

London is home to over 100,000 international students from over 200 different nationsthats more international students studying in London than in any other city in the world. According to London & Partnersthe official promotional organisation for Londonstudying in a global city such as London has many advantages including an exciting social life and an international network of friends; students can choose from over 30,000 university courses at 45 universities in London; additionally, London has seven universities in the the world top 200 university rankings, which is more than any other city in the world; London is the most diverse and welcoming city in the world since students from more than 200 different nations study here; and a degree from a good London university is recognised by companies around the world.

In fact, Subrato Banerjee, a research scholar at the Indian Statistical Institute and someone who has lectured at the London Business School, puts it this way: Assuming that one is backed with adequate scholarship to cover basic expenses, there is a lot to the quality of life that London can offeravailability of constant electricity supply, decent quality food, convenient transportation, and the internet can almost be taken for granted. Universities/schools in London are well equipped with libraries that often house rare manuscripts. Besides access to a vast number of celebrated online journals (exceeding that which most Indian institutes offer), institutes in London also boast of high standards of instruction, stemming from stringent publication requirements on faculty. He also says that the scope for cross-disciplinary education between institutions render the teacher-student equation relatively informal. The conferences, workshops and seminars hosted by schools in London on a regular basis enrich study exposure from almost all directions, he adds.

On student diversity, Kevin McCarthy, head, Study London, London & Partners, adds, With students from over 200 countries, Londons student population replicates Londons overall diversity. And its the diversity of the city which makes London unique. Students will establish a global network of friends and future business contacts that they will take with them throughout their career.

But a few months ago, the city was shocked (more so the non-EU students studying in London) by the student visa row that involved London Metropolitan University (LMU) and resulted in revoking of LMUs licence to recruit foreign students. Though later the students heaved a sigh of relief as the high court allowed them to continue their studies and permitted the university to challenge the revocation of its licence to admit non-EU students. On the same, Nicola Dandridge, chief executive, Universities UK, says, We must make sure that clumsily-handled changes to our visa rules do not drown out the reality of the situation (See interview below). She also adds that Universities UK seeks to rectify some of the more damaging, and often misleading, headlines that have appeared about changes to the UK immigration system.

While the fact remains that a number of students were, allegedly, economic migrants seeking a back-door entry into the UK, the student visa row necessitates that London reinvents itself as a global study destination. Kevin McCarthy says that London is constantly changing and remains a good choice for Indian students who want to gain that all-important work experience while they study. The city is a business and cultural capital with opportunities to work on secondments with a huge range of companies, he says. On the visa row, he adds: In the long run, the new visa system will strengthen the UK university sector because it has removed bogus colleges from the system. Indian students can now be reassured that the universities they enrol at, especially those that are on the Study London website, offer quality education.

Student ambassadors

Recently, London unlocked the international students potential when Londons universities launched a new initiative with international students who will become ambassadors for London. As many as 30 international students were presented with a symbolic key to the city to unlock the year-long programme of activities that demonstrate why London is the worlds best study destination. The chosen students from the US and India will take part in a series of learning, networking and behind-the-scenes tours which will give the students unprecedented access to the citys organisations and attractions.

The programme was launched by the London Universities International Partnership (LUIP)made up of 16 universitiesand is supported by London & Partners. It is designed to help the student ambassadors discover the unrivalled opportunities that studying in a multi-cultural, vibrant and creative city like London can offer. They will be communicating their experiences to a wider audience in the US and India through their own blogs, tweets and videos.

On the same, Gary Davies, chair of LUIP, comments, London is the worlds top higher education study destination and international students studying here get more than just a universally recognised qualification. Our ambassadors will be able to experience first-hand the advantages studying in a global city rich in cultural heritage brings.

The chosen ambassadors will benefit from a programme that includes behind-the-scene tours of classic London icons and museums; a boot camp on leadership and entrepreneurship; a chance to experience what it is like to work in Londons pre-eminent creative and finance industries; and an opportunity to meet Fortnum and Masons international buyer for a tea tasting. The students will have a crucial ambassadorial role on their return home as successful alumni and will continue to promote London back to their own country in partnership with London & Partners.

An Indian student, MD Adil Hossain, studying for a MA Development and Rights at the Goldsmiths University London, says, I am from a small village in West Bengal so to be in London and chosen as a student ambassador means getting unending avenues to realise my dreams I am sure I will have the opportunity to expand my horizons and develop my critical thinking.

A student from the US, David Kroeker Maus, from Minnesota, studying for a MA Environment and Development, says, I am delighted to have the chance to network with the other ambassadors from the London universities and hope they will develop in the future to be important professional contacts.

London is reinventing itself as a global study destination and the new visa system will only strengthen the UK university sector. The city remains one of the most attractive destinations in the world for international students. As Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, puts it: London has the combination of academic excellence, a rich artistic and cultural heritage and it is at the centre of global business.

The author was invited by London & Partners to visit London