Reasons to leave Indian students in the UK out of the Liz Truss vs lettuce equation – Moneycontrol

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During times of political crisis, appealing to the baser instincts can be politically rewarding and offer a distraction. But it does not always augur well for the country’s international appeal. At a time when questions are being raised on whether Liz Truss could outlast a lettuce, two UK cabinet ministers have targeted international students to achieve the larger goal of keeping migration figures down. However, key stakeholders from the education sector did not lose time to criticise those utterings while seeking to remind them of the benefits international students bring to the UK.
In an interview Indian-origin UK home secretary Suella Braverman told the The Spectator, “I have concerns about having an open borders migration policy with India because I don’t think that’s what people voted for with Brexit.” Her comments in the backdrop of the FTA negotiations were seen as a setback which also led to a sharp rebuke by the Indian High Commission in the UK, especially to her reference about overstayers from India. Braverman, and her cabinet colleague Nadhim Zahawi, also spoke about the large number of students coming to the UK with a high number of dependents.
Organisations and bodies, now used to the government’s treatment of international students as a tool to fix/control migration, have spoken out strongly against a myopic vision that has the potential to affect the UK’s standing in a crowded and competitive market. The popular post-study work visa which entitled international students to work in the UK after their studies was scrapped by the UK government only be launched again in July 2021 as the number of students from countries like India came down drastically.
On Wednesday, at the launch ceremony of India-UK Achievers Honours in the British Parliament, initiated by National Indian Students and Alumni Union UK (NISAU UK) in partnership with British Council in India, Lord Jo Johnson, former Universities minister, and brother of Boris Johnson, told a packed House that the benefits international students bring to Britain are taken for granted. Johnson, a regular visitor to India, highlighted that the world-class universities that the UK has to offer remain a huge draw but there should be no scope for slack. “We made an important policy change with the introduction of the post study work visa. And that has been a great success. And we must see the great benefit it has created for our system. But we have to stay vigilant as there will be pressure from various quarters on the number of international students coming to the UK,” he said.
As Universities minister, Johnson took steps to attract international students to the UK and perhaps as a reminder to the current dispensation, spoke about what other popular destinations have been doing. “Other countries have taken very decisive steps to increase their competitiveness. Just a few days ago we saw Canada extend its in-study work rights for students, entitling them to work an unlimited number of hours during their course of study. We have recently seen Australia extend their post study working rights. Other countries like New Zealand and the US are also looking very hard at how they can improve their competitiveness in this market.”
Vivienne Stern, CEO of Universities UK, which represents over 140 UK universities and colleges, was more forthcoming on the need to push back. “The wind has changed. I think we have to band together. Because we have to make the case that this is something that benefits both the UK and India. This is fundamental to the ties that bind our nations together.” She spoke about a possible battle ahead with those who believe immigration is a bad thing especially if it relates to students.
There was no mincing of words from Stern on how the presence of international students was an engine for growth. “If we imagine the road to growth is a motorway, then what you have done is you have put this little policy car on the right motorway but heading in the wrong direction. So that’s the job we have got to do and hope we will be able to use the brilliant stories that this initiative produces to help us illustrate the cases of individual human beings and the contributions they make,” said Stern. As part of India-UK Achievers Honours, 75 Indian students and alumni who studied in UK universities will be honoured at a ceremony in the British High Commissioner’s residence in New Delhi.
Also present were Lord Karan Bilimoria, Labour MP Virendra Sharma, along with vice-chancellors and officials from the Department of International Trade, which is also a partner in the India-UK Achievers Honours programme. “Indian students are classified as immigrants, but they are not immigrants. The vast majority go back to their country. They are classified as immigrants because they stay for more than a year but they go back eventually. This is a global race, we are competing with Canada, USA, Australia and we have to make the UK as attractive as possible. Just the two-year graduate visa is also not enough, we need to go further,” said Lord Bilimoria, who is trying to get an IIT campus within Birmingham University, where he serves as the chancellor.
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