Column : Indian students prefer the UK

Written by Nikhila Gill | Nikhila Gill | Updated: Aug 1 2010, 03:22am hrs
The UK has, after years, upstaged the US as a preferred destination for Indian students. The data on visas issued for the academic year starting the fall of 2010 shows that the US issued 32,000 student visas, a figure almost doubled by the UK consulate that issued 57,500 visas for new student entrants. These numbers signify a change since 2009 when the US had more new students (34,000) compared to the UK (27,000). This change of preference has come about despite the hotly debated proposal for a cap on non-EU immigration into the UK and stricter visa rules. On a side note, Downing Street will consult New Delhi on this a subject, a result of what David Cameron described a spirit of humility towards India. David Willetts, UKs minister for universities and science, also downplayed the effects of the new policies saying that the move only seeks to ensure the delivery of high quality education to international students and eliminate exploitation of foreign students by non-accredited universities.

The UKs international education and skills sector generates 28 billion pounds annually, of which international education is worth over 5 billion pounds. Contributing to this sector are 40,000 Indian students enrolled in higher education courses in the UK in 2009, the second largest international student community after China. However, although the

UK is growing in eminence, the US still has the largest number of Indian students enrolled in its higher education institutions at over 1,00,000.

Besides its relatively shorter (and therefore less expensive) programmes and flights back home, there is another important issue that probably contributes to Indian students preference of the UK over the US. The UK allows international students to work in off-campus jobs as opposed to the US, where students are restricted to working on-campus and vie for a limited number of jobs. This is an important consideration since a large number of Indian students need a job to support them through their time at university.

As far as reverse migration is concerned, there are only 500 British students in India, a number that David Cameron wants to see increase, with more collaboration in research. And such collaborative efforts may just be what India is looking fora helping hand for Indias bid to increase innovation on its shores.