Will an anti-immigration UK govt want more Indian students?
ON THE AGENDA Proposed Commonwealth and targeted work visas for STEM students could boost the falling numbers of Indian students in the UK – provided the government is ready to welcome them
The Brexit referendum and British prime minister Theresa May’s tough stand on student visas amidst reports that her government will see where visa rules can be tightened, does not augur well for Indian students. As it is, according to International Consultants for Education and Fairs Monitor, the numbers of Indian students travelling to the UK have fallen sharply in recent years. Between 2013-14 and 201415, this number fell by 10%, making the US displace India as the second-largest non-EU source market for international students. About 22,385 Indian students came to the UK in the 2012/13 academic year and just 18,320 in 2014-15 year, as per the UK Council for International Student Affairs data.
Jack Moran, who is associated with the QS Intelligence Unit (a team of global higher education experts and those responsible for bringing out the QS world university rankings), says there are two primary policies by which the UK government could attract more Indian students. “First, the UK government needs to establish how it is going to reconcile its desire to maintain the UK’s status as an open destination with a prevalent public desire to see reduced levels of immigration.”
Foreign secretary Boris Johnson’s proposed Commonwealth Visa which would allow Indian graduates to stay and work in London for two years after completion of their degree, irrespective of salary, if implemented, “would certainly provide one incentive to Indian students, highlighting the UK’s specific desire to encourage the nation’s talented students to study and research in the country,” says Moran. Johnson has proposed the introduction of a targeted work visa aimed at STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) students, which would allow them to spend up to two years working in the UK after graduation. “Though this will not be restricted to graduates of a specific nationality, it is probable Indian students, who statistics show are more likely to opt to study a STEM subject, will respond positively to this,” adds Moran. Hoping to attract more Indian students, the government and varsities in UK are mulling new visa schemes, budget plans, financial grants and other initiatives. The UK-India Education and Research Initiative will be extended for five years from 2016. “This year, UK Visas and Immigration introduced the Priority Visa service to students, which allows them to get a visa decision in three to five days for an extra charge. This has been popular with students applying this year. After China and the US, the UK issues more student visas to Indians than any other country. Nine out of 10 Indians who apply for their student visa get one,” says a UK Home Office official. No major changes have been announced i n t his year’s Common Admission Test (CAT) for admission to management programmes across Indian B-schools, but candidates should be prepared for surprises.
As CAT i s being held i n December after two decades instead of the usual November, aspirants are getting an extra two to three weeks to get ready for it.
CAT 2016 will broadly follow the same pattern as last year’s test, which included questions without options (also referred to as ‘type in the answer questions’). Difficulty levels of the individual sections, however, will vary. Like last year, the test structure, the sections to be attempted and the time limit will not change. Sections such as verbal ability and reading comprehension; data interpretation and logical reasoning and quantitative ability will have to be solved in an hour each.
According to Arun Sharma, CAT preparation expert and alumnus of IIM Bangalore, any major changes at this stage are tough to predict. “But given that the pattern is the same, the difficulty levels will vary. A section can have very tough questions or very easy ones. Your preparation should be managed in such a fashion that it turns to your advantage.”
Sharma asks candidates to practice mock tests and work on as many ways as possible to improve scores. “Get as close to 180 or more. This will help you on the test day. Do section-wise analysis and try to get close to 60 in each section. Analyse your weaknesses and work on them, learn to maximise the advantages of your strengths,” says Sharma.
With ne g at i ve marking of minus one for any wrong answer, a score of above 60 requires around 23-25 attempts in a section. To get to more than 80, you need to attempt over 28 questions, he says.
Try looking at different paper patterns and difficulty levels over the past two decades in each of the sections.