The number of Indians studying in the UK has almost doubled in the last three years, with over 21,000 student visas issued to Indians till March 2019. A white paper on extending the duration students can stay and work post study is also in the works in an effort to make Britain an attractive destination for Indian students, officials said.
With Australia and Canada attracting international students in droves with their easier work and study norms and overtaking the UK as preferred student destination, the new British government is giving serious thought to giving education cooperation the attention it deserves.
The number of Indian students in the UK registered a 40 per cent increase over the last year. Of the Indian students who applied for visas, 96 per cent were successful, said British High Commissioner Dominic Asquith.
The Ministry of External Affairs said in Parliament that as many as 7,52,725 Indian students are studying abroad, with the US the preferred destination for higher education. Canada and Australia take the second and third spots. The US has 2,11,703 Indian students.
Canada introduced its Post-Graduation Work Permit Program (PGWPP) in 2006 to allow students to gain work experience which qualifies for permanent residency. Australia's point-based immigration policies were also aimed at encouraging international students to pursue permanent residency in Australia.
However, after the UK announced the abolition of post-study work rights in 2011, the number of Indian students went down sharply from a peak of 38,677 in 2011 to 16,655 in 2016.
Keen to attract foreign students, who according to a 2017 study generated more than 25 billion pounds for the economy and helped give a boost to regional jobs and local businesses, the British government is planning to increase the number of months a foreign student can stay back and work.
"There is a proposal to increase the post-study work rights from the current four months to 12 months," said Tom Birtwistle, Director North India, British Council.
The UK government is also launching a #GetReadyForClass campaign over the next month to help guide international students through the application process and encourage them to apply early.
Among other measures to deepen bilateral education cooperation, 20 Vice Chancellors from UK Universities are visiting Delhi and Hyderabad in the first week of September.
"They will meet HRD Ministry officials and VCs from India. There will be a high level policy dialogue - in an area of mutual interest to both -- on the future employability prospects of graduates of higher education systems. It will be a chance to highlight some of the major success stories of the UK-India partnership in higher education," he said.
In September, senior officials from the London School of Economics will be on a multi-city tour of India. At the end of the month, a team from Leeds University will visit India.
A new programme - the UK India Education & Research Initiative (UKIERI) Mobility Programme: Study in India -- will allow UK undergraduate students to do part of their degree course in Indian institutes. The programme is funded by the governments of both the countries.
Around 200 British students will be studying in India from September 2020 as part of the programme, said Birtwistle.
In another initiative, the British Council's Future Leaders Connect programme, a global leadership network for emerging policy leaders, will see this year four young Indians as part of it.
Hasiba Begum, Kajri Babbar, Shambhavi Singh and Shreya Juneja will join those selected from other countries at the Future Leaders Connect programme at the University of Cambridge in November.