Home Office minister, Lord Henley, from the UK has claimed that the total number of international students has not declined but rather only the number of Indian students. The reduction in the number of Indian students can be attributed to the recent changes to the visa system. The changes were implemented after there were multiple reports of abuse to the system. It was reported that more than half of the international students who applied for visas in the UK last year were not in fact, genuine students. This drop in the number of Indian students applying to UK universities is only expected to continue to increase due to the additional step in the visa application process added in for Indian and other non-EU applicants. There are now going to be targeted interviews to prevent non-genuine students from obtaining visas.
Lord Henley has said, “We are not seeing a decline in the overall number of students coming to universities. What we are seeing is a decline in the numbers of those who were coming here allegedly to study but using that as a way of getting round the immigration system.”
In addition to tightening up the visa procedures, the UK has reduced the earlier two-year PSW (post study work) visa to just a four-month extension after study. For students looking to study abroad, this is a large deterring factor as many use the opportunity to work in that particular country as a way to pay off student loans. Other countries such as Australia and Canada have become much more attractive as their post study work period is around 2-3 years.
Many British business owners are urging the British government to ensure that there is a clear message stating that genuine international students are in fact welcomed. There is a fear that the visa changes will result in a reduction of the availability of STEM skills and the ability to perform research.
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