NEW DELHI: This could be the year in which India beats China in terms of the number of overseas students in the UK.
From a low of around 20,000 five years ago to issuing an unprecedented one lakh visas to Indian students last year, British high commissioner to India Alex Ellis, in an exclusive interaction with TOI, said his country would like to go even higher.
Britain is offering 75, the highest ever, Chevening scholarships to Indian students in the 75th year of India’s independence. Ellis said that from next year the plan is to go higher with more sponsors joining.
Both countries recently signed an MoU on mutual recognition of educational qualifications (MRQ), including maritime education, and a framework agreement for healthcare workers. On its significance, the high commissioner said the MoU enables recognition of the UK’s masters degree by Indian author- ities. “That’s particularly relevant if you are trying to get a government job or if you’re trying to do a PhD here. ”
Ellis said it’s a step towards increasing confidence and trust between the two countries “so that we have more of a flow of people between the two of them”.
“A lot of people are already moving between the UK and India, but we want even more, including more people from Britain coming to India. Essentially, we would recognise Indian masters. That will help people from India if they want to get employment in the UK, so it works both ways. ”
Commenting on visa issues, Ellis said that this could be the year when the number of Indian students surpass Chinese in the UK’s campuses. “We issued roughly 1,00,000 student visas last academic year. We hope to beat the record of last year. There’s been a huge growth in Indian student numbers to the UK. We’ve got down to somewhere very low, less than 20,000 four or five years ago, now it’s up to 100,000, we want to go even higher. It could be that this year India overtakes China in terms of students coming to the UK.
At the moment, China is number one source of international students and India is number two. Now it is relatively easier for Indian nationals to come to the UK, with the result that I think 44% of all skilled work visas UK issues go to Indian nationals. ” On the India-UK free trade agreement (FTA), Ellis said it’s an opportunity for India to further its access to the UK market and build on the strategic relationship during the turbulent times, while making a mention of Afghanistan and the Russia-Ukraine war.
The negotiations for a proposed FTA with the UK will be over by the end of August. Ellis sees big opportunities for both the countries, including fulfilling strategic interests and lowering of tariffs.