VISA & Travel information


Closure of UK Post Study Work Visa: Fewer Indian students opt STEM courses

Dr.T.P.Sethumadhavan

International students always preferred UK as the best destination for higher education due to cutting edge technology, infrastructure facilities, flexible curriculum and availability of short duration courses. Moreover there are options for students to complete graduate /MBA programme within one year period. As a sequele to closure of UK Post Study Visa with effect from 6th April 2012 number of Indian students applying for university courses started declining. Each year, foreign students coming to the UK generate nearly 14 billion UK pounds to the nation’s economy. Hence, the closure of the UK Tier 1 visa program is being criticized by many including Universities UK.

Reduction in number of Indian students for graduate and post graduate programmes in UK universities have led to concerns over the financial viability of courses and departments particularly in the subjects of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). This is mainly due to abolition of the post study work visa.

The facility was popular among self-financing Indian students who sought to recover some of the expenses of studying by working for two years. The facility also enabled them to gain work experience in the UK that was seen to aid career prospects in India. The UK Tier 1 visa program provided a good option of financially supporting their stay in the UK by getting employment for a period of two years and also offered valuable work experience for foreign students. A large number of Indians avail the opportunity of working in the UK after successful completion of studies in the UK. But the UK’s decision to eliminate the UK PSW (Post Study Work) visa program affected the career plans of such Indians.

UK PSW visa program closed—prior to the changes in the UK immigration norms, Indian students were permitted to work for a period of two years after their study courses in the UK. Options for applying to stay in the UK—following elimination of the UK Tier 1 visa route, foreign students can still make applications for staying in the UK by exploring other UK immigration options. The only condition is that they need to fulfill eligibility criteria including income levels. The latest step by the UK Government is to bring down UK immigration levels to ‘tens of thousands’. However, the UK authorities maintained that despite of closure of the UK Tier 1 visa route, the nation is still open to the best and the brightest.

With effect from 6th April 2012, international students will be able to apply for leave to remain in the UK under other immigration routes if they meet the criteria, but most such students are unlikely to meet the higher income level and other criteria. The Home Office also announced that the annual limit for skilled Indian and other non-EU migrants with job offers in the UK would remain at 20,700 for the next two years until April 2014.

This drop has created concern over the future of STEM courses that have been popular among postgraduate Indian students. Recent reports on 'Overseas Students and Net Migration’ reveal that UK Universities report a drop of between 20 and 30 per cent of Indian students in the forthcoming academic year. The committee to assess the situation suggested that Indian and other non-EU students should be removed from overall immigration figures since most of them return home after their courses. Moreover recent survey reveals that one in six of those who graduated from a British university in the last five years are employed outside the EU. Simon Walker, Director General of the Institute of Directors mentioned that “I have worked with Chinese and Indian graduates who have assisted with taking business to China and India. They are a great asset to a company if we use them correctly".

Reduction of Indian students to study STEM subjects affected the sustainability of certain subjects in UK Universities.  Some universities are particularly concerned about the impact of reduction of international student numbers on specific subject areas, especially STEM; the reductions may affect the viability of some subjects in the future. Changes in student visa policies will create an adverse impact particularly in BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China) and will damage the business relationships.

British Council which is responsible for promoting British education overseas, presented a detailed report to the Government on the likely impact the recent student visa changes will have, and compared the experiences of Australia and United States. Report titled 'Impact of Visa Changes on Student Mobility and Outlook for the UK', the British Council said: "Students from certain countries who mainly study postgraduate courses in the UK –-such as India, Pakistan, non EU countries and others --will be affected by the removal of the post-study work visa.

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