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Cheer for Indian students as UK changes student visa policy

Will more students consider studying in the UK now that the 2 year work visa has been reinstated?


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Namita Mehta

3 years ago | 3 min read

Theresa May’s controversial decision in 2011 to veto the two-year extension on the TIER 4 student visa for foreign students led to a dramatic 50% drop in the number of Indian students choosing the UK as a university destination. Numbers went from 52,218 in 2010, to 22,757 in 2011 and touched 15,388 in 2017. In a move to correct this decline, Prime Minister Boris Johnson reinstated the two-year work visa just recently.

 Here are some reasons why the number of students flocking to the UK will increase substantially in the future :

 1. Duration and cost of the Undergraduate degree

 Unlike the US, where the majority of undergraduate degrees are four years, in the UK, most degrees are three years. This automatically means students will save one year of tuition fees. For example, completing a BSc Economics degree at the London School of Economics and Political Science only takes three years, where the tuition fee per year is $26,750. At the University of Pennsylvania, a similar, reputed college in the US, the annual tuition is $58,000, costing a family $2,32,000 for their child’s entire four-year degree course.. By choosing a top UK university, parents end up saving about $1,51,750 in tuition costs. (NOTE: Living costs vary in different parts of the UK and US). 

 Also, many universities in the UK offer integrated master’s programs, where students can complete a master’s four years after they finish high school. For example, the molecular and cellular biochemistry degree at Oxford University is an integrated master’s program, where all students graduate with a master’s degree. This is extremely beneficial as students attain a higher qualification studying in the UK as compared to the US in the same amount of time.  

2.                 Similar Education Systems

 India has a similar education system to that of UK. In the A-level/Pre-U curriculum (UK 11th and 12th grade curriculum), students choose three or four subjects for in-depth study. Students studying Indian boards in grades 11 and 12, such as the ISC, HSC or CBSE also do the same. Therefore, the transition to a UK university is relatively easier for Indian students. 

 In addition, degrees in the UK run on a single track and students only study the subject that they are majoring in, which is similar to India. This is very different from the liberal arts education that all US universities require in a core curriculum. Students who study say, for example, engineering in the US, have to also take courses in humanities, arts and social sciences to earn the credits to fulfill their undergraduate degree requirements. In the UK, students studying engineering, only take courses related to their major.

 Therefore, if students know what they want to study, the UK is an excellent option.

 Conversely, for students that have multiple interests and want to obtain a liberal arts degree, UK universities have also started offering this option. Colleges such as King’s College London, Royal Holloway and the University of Bristol, all offer “liberal arts” courses, which students can complete in three years.  

3.                 Admissions Requirements

Most UK universities base their admissions decisions primarily on the student’s academic ability, whereas the US takes a more holistic approach. Students who are strong academically and haven’t pursued many extracurricular activities have a better chance of being admitted to top universities in the UK over other countries. 

4.                 STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) vs. Non-STEM 

 In the US, students who did not study a STEM subject in their undergraduate degree can apply for only one year of extension on their student visa under the OPT scheme, whereas STEM students can increase this by 24 months. For students studying subjects such as journalism, design, finance, law and marketing, the recently reinstated two-year extension in the UK is a better option. Business schools in the UK will also see increased interest as most MBA degrees falls under the non-STEM bracket in the US. The two-year extension is also beneficial to recruiters as companies now don’t have to worry about their employee's visa status. 

5.                 Distance to India

 As the UK is an 8 hour flight from India, parents are comforted knowing that their child is closer to home. The long distance to the US and Canada can be a barrier for parents considering study abroad destinations for their children. 

 “The introduction of the two-year work visa in the UK is an excellent step for my family,” says S. Kakkar. “We were keen to send our daughter abroad to benefit from the international learning experiences that these universities offer, but the US was too far. Now that we know she can stay and work in the UK, post her degree, we are definitely applying to the UK.”

The number of Indian students who study abroad every year is gradually increasing. In the US over 35% of the 586,183 students are Indian. Now that the UK has changed its immigration policy, it is definitely back in serious contention.

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