What Brexit means to Indian students
WHAT NEXT? While studying in the UK is likely to become cheaper after Brexit, universities will also go all out to woo Indian students, say experts
A lot has changed for the UK in the last few days since Brexit – the country’s decision to quit the European Union (EU). The stability of UK’s economy and its equation with EU is now under the scanner. Higher education is an important domain which is likely to see major changes after Brexit, particularly for Indian students aspiring to study in the UK and EU.
Experts say that it will take at least two years for formalities following Brexit to finally be in place. Given this scenario, will UK see a further drop in the number of students from India and will UK universities introduce more stringent policies for international students, particularly Indians? WILL STUDIES GET CHEAPER? A lot of you must be wondering if studying in the UK will become expensive or if the post study work visa rules will make it harder for Indians to choose the UK as a destination.
The impact on the economy and the pound is already noticeable, with the pound recovering slightly after the initial free fall. According to Sanjeev Roy, higher education expert– EU public diplomacy and outreach in India and in the SAARC, “This will affect Indian students in many ways. Studying in UK was never this inexpensive. The fee will reduce and this means that more students can now dream of studying in the UK.”
However, students need to be cautious. Rahul Choudaha, CEO of DrEducation, a US-based global higher education research firm, says, “In the immediate short-term, direct cost of studying in the UK will be declining due to currency devaluation. However, uncertain prospects for finding work opportunities will make it (difficult for students to) recover direct cost and hence overall cost of study in the UK will still increase.” Visa issues can be resolved if the UK government brings in a separate visa policy for Indians and other Commonwealth nations. STUDENT MOBILITY According to Choudaha, the number of Indian students coming to the UK declined by 53% from 2010-13 to 2014-15 in contrast to increase in students headed for the US. “The UK had been witnessing a decline in the number of Indian students due to policies that did not favour students in gaining work experience. Given that Indian students are value-seekers, they prefer to recover a part of the cost of education by gaining work experience. Post- recession, UK policies have been making it consistently more expensive and difficult for international students to study and stay in the UK. Decline in work opportunities along with uncertain economy and stricter immigration policies will make UK less attractive for many I ndian s t udents,” he says.
While t his may b e t he immediate fallout of Brexit, the silver lining to the cloud for UK is that the number of Indian students can still go up in future. “UK universities have shown a lot of interest in India, which is a big market for them. Earlier, (a larger) number of students chose UK for postgraduate studies but the trend is changing with undergraduate courses also being in demand. UK universities will now try to attract more Indian students and they cannot afford to ignore Indian students or their association with Indian institutions, particularly with the pending foreign education bill and the recent announcements by the ministry of human resource development regarding tie-ups with foreign institutions,” says Roy. The number of Indian students in the UK is perhaps the lowest in the last decade and efforts henceforth by the UK universities and the government will be made to improve the situation.
As per the Higher Education Statistics Agency, UK, there were about 10,000 first- year Indian students in the UK in 2004-05, a number which grew steadily to cross 20,000 between 2008 and 2011. However, with the strict work policies and immigration rules, this dropped drastically from 2011 and was back to 10,125 in 2014-15.
Despite this, India was second in terms of non-EU firstyear enrolments in the UK with 6% of non-EU first year enrolments in 2014-15, along with the US. However, while numbers from US have remained stable over these five years, the share from India has decreased from 14% in 2010-11. India was second largest in the list of non-EU countries across all enrolments, representing 6%.
According to the UK Council f or I nter national Student Affairs, Indian students are the next largest cohort in the UK after China with 18,320, although t his represents a continuing drop from the previous year and the year before. The impact of Brexit could also mean more students going to Scotland and Ireland for higher studies. “These destinations now have an edge and will be even more aggressive in attracting Indian students,” adds Roy. IMPACT ON STUDENT FUNDING Student funding in terms of the number and value of scholar- ships and fellowships to the UK might bring in good news for Indian students, says Roy.
“After Brexit, UK universities and other funding agencies such the British Council are likely to get aggressive in terms of offering scholarships, full or partial, to attract Indian students. The number of UK varsities coming to India to woo students has gone up. Their education policy will focus on welcoming students from all over and will have to think out- of- the- box to get in more Indian students. Scholarships under schemes such as Great Scholarships by the British Council, Dr Manmohan Singh Scholarships and Chevening Scholarships, besides scholarships by universities, will go up,” adds Roy. Changes won’t happen overnight, universities in the UK reassured international students worried about repercussions on studies after Brexit .
A statement by Dame Julia G o o d f e l l ow, p r e s i d e n t o f Universities UK, has said, “We should remember that leaving the EU will not happen overnight – there will be a gradual exit process with significant opportunities to seek assurances and influence future policy. Throughout the transition period, our focus will be on securing support that allows our universities to continue to be global in their outlook and internationally networked. Our first priority will be to convince the UK government to take steps to promote the UK as a welcoming destination for the brightest and best minds.”
Talking about the impact on funding schemes, a University of Birmingham spokesperson says, “We will endeavour to provide clarity on the pressing issues as soon as we can and would like to reassure staff and students that the vote to leave the European Union does not mean there will be any immediate material change to the UK university sector’s participation in EU programmes such as Horizon 2020 and Erasmus Plus. As a university community we already are planning together for the changes that will be ahead to ensure we remain an ambitious, outwardlooking, global university.”
The University of Southampton is also reaching out to students globally on the issue. “We recognise that this could be an anxious period for many people either considering or currently studying and working at the University of Southampton. Until there is further clarity, we would like to ensure you that we are doing our best to understand the issues and reduce the impact where possible,” says a spokesperson from the university.