Covid-19 has put a damper on the plans of many overseas students seeking to study in the UK. A Report entitled “Universities Open to the World: How to put the bounce back in Global Britain”, prepared by former UK Universities Minister Jo Johnson for the Policy Institute at King’s College London and the Harvard Kennedy School, suggests that there could be a 50-75 per cent drop in applications from international students due to the coronavirus pandemic. This is likely to expose vulnerabilities in the country’s higher education sector, as it will hit the number of higher fee-paying international students taking up courses at UK universities.
To mitigate this, the report urges the UK Government to launch a new “Graduate” visa route, also called a post-study visa, for the 2020-21 intake to UK universities. The Graduate visa is designed for overseas students to be able to work or look for work after completing their course. There are plans to double the post-study visa offer to four years, a strategic move that could double the numbers of Indian students choosing UK universities by 2024.
Indian students would find the greater ability to work at the end of a degree course to be very attractive, and by including Indians in the low-risk student visa category of countries, there is likely to be a strong hike in Indian students who choose UK universities.
Jo Johnson, the younger brother of UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson feels that this would be a game changer for students in India. The UK prime minister has always supported higher education for international students and is therefore likely to take this proposal into consideration. Indian students are very sensitive to whether or not they have an ability to stay on in the country after they graduate, in order to put their skills to good use, as well as earn money to pay back their considerable expenses on University fees.
As Jo Johnson says, there is a very real need to counter the effects that the pandemic has had on international education. “The issue is that the world has not stood still. Coronavirus is significantly going to reduce the number of international students that are globally mobile this coming year and probably following years as well,” he explains. While the current majority of students are from China, this proposal aims to increase students from countries like Nigeria and Malaysia, while doubling the numbers of students from India.
He also stressed the need for the UK to streamline visa processes, making Britain’s university offering all the more appealing.
This is good news, indeed, for Indian students seeking higher education opportunities in the UK, in the wake of the ongoing pandemic!