File: The face of the Great Clock of the Elizabeth Tower, commonly referred to as Big Ben, is pictured at the Houses of Parliament in London, on August 17, 2017, as a red London bus crosses Westminster Bridge.
LONDON: The UK government has caused outrage with its decision to exclude Indian students from a new list of countries considered “low risk” in order to facilitate an easier visa application process to UK universities.
In changes to its immigration policy tabled in Parliament yesterday, the UK Home Office announced a relaxation of the Tier 4 visa category for overseas students from around 25 countries.
On a list already covering countries like the US, Canada and New Zealand, the Home Office has added on the likes of China, Bahrain and Serbia as countries from where students would face reduced checks on educational, financial and English language skill requirements to study at British universities.
The changes, which come into effect on July 6, aim to make it easier for international students to come to study in the UK.
However, India has been left out of this new expanded list, which means Indian students applying for similar courses will continue to face rigorous checks and documentary requirements.
Lord Karan Bilimoria, Indian-origin entrepreneur and President of the UK Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA), described the move as an “insult” to India and another example of Britain’s “economically illiterate and hostile attitude to immigration”.
“I consider this another kick in the teeth for India … This sends entirely the wrong message to India, to exclude it from these Tier 4 measures.
“The government has simply got it wrong,” said Bilimoria, while welcoming the overall visa relaxation measures introduced by UK home secretary Sajid Javid.
The latest development will add to growing concern within Indian government circles, given that ministers and diplomats have repeatedly highlighted the need for a more welcoming immigration regime for Indian students.
Last week, Indian High Commissioner to the UK, YK Sinha, held a meeting with the UK’s minister for universities, Sam Gyimah, during which he once again raised the issue of “smoother and greater student and faculty mobility between the two countries”.
“It is unfortunate that in the last six years we have seen a steep drop (in Indian student numbers). What should be troubling universities here is that Indian students are now going in much greater numbers to the US, Australia — even France and Germany,” Sinha has said in the past.
The UK Home Office said in order to make it easier for students to come and study in the UK’s world-leading education sector, it has expanded the list of countries from which students will be able to benefit from a streamlined application process.