More Indian students likely to flock to Australia as UK tightens visa laws

AS the UK government tightens its education migration rules, Indian students may be considering other destinations, such as Australia. Gayertree Subramaniam reports.

Image: CollegeDegrees360 via Flickr

A crack down on student migration numbers in the UK may be leading prospective students to consider alternative destinations, such as Australia.

As of April 6, 2013, the UK government introduced a string of measures in an attempt to retain only the ‘brightest and most ambitious’.

The Tier 1 (Post-Study) Visa which previously enabled students to work during and after their studies for two years without having a sponsor, will now be made redundant to international students wishing to study in the UK.

The Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) Programme, which is accessible to 1000 international graduates with a Masters degree in business administration, has also been shortened to one year.

All graduate students who now complete a PhD will be allowed to stay in Britain for a further year to find skilled work or begin an entrepreneurship.

The hardening of international student visa rules follows a pledge by the government to curb migration numbers. In 2011, Prime Minister David Cameron had pledged to reduce immigration to the UK to fewer than 100,000 before the 2015 General Election.

Although experts doubt that this target will be reached, a report published by the Office of National Statistic found immigration numbers fell to 153,000 in the year ending September 2012 from 242,000 in the previous year.

More significantly, it revealed a drop in students arriving in the UK – down from 247,000 in September 2012 to just 190, 000.

The higher education industry is one of the UK’s greatest exports, contributing up to £8 billion a year to the economy. The decline in international student numbers is likely to see a reduction in the value of the sector’s earnings.

These new measures have already begun to impact student enrolments from India. According to figures released by the Higher Education Statistics Agency, the number of students from India registered a fall of nearly 23.5 per cent last year, including a 28 per cent drop at post-graduate level.

Until last April, Indian students at British educational establishments were automatically allowed to stay and work for two years after their course ended. Now, as a result of the changes, students can stay for three years after their studies only if they find ‘graduate-level jobs’ on salaries of £20,000 or higher.

By comparison, Australia, which is another popular destination for Indian students,  grants post-graduate visas for up to four years in any field.

Despite  a spate of violent attacks against Indian students in 2009 and 2010 which caused damage to Australia’s tertiary education sector, a survey has found that 75 per cent of Indians still view Australia as a good place to be educated.

More than 1,000 Indian adults were asked about their attitude to Australia in the wide-ranging India-Australia Poll by the Lowy Institute and the Australia-India Institute.

Australia ranks second after the United States as an ideal study destination, according to 75 per cent of Indians, and rates more highly than Canada at 71 per cent, Singapore at 69 per cent, Britain at 67 per cent.

Results also revealed that a majority of Indians (58 per cent) believe that most Indian students in Australia are really there to migrate permanently.

For recent Bachelors of Business Administration graduate Pooja Rai, of Maharaja Surajmal Institute in New Delhi, Australia definitely is on the cards for further studies.

“When thinking about going abroad for my MBA, I surely do not intend to return immediately. I intend to work there after and possibly even settle there,” she said.

“The way the laws are set out for me to achieve these aims in the UK as opposed to Australia aren’t actually all that favourable”.