The UK government is working to ensure that existing visa processes are as
flexible as possible as the number of Indian students studying in the UK has
been going up. Janaka Pushpanathan, Director – South India, British
Council explains why the visa issue rate for Indian students is 96%, which is
well above the global average.
What are the main challenges for students aspiring to study in the UK?
British Council has been working
closely with students, parents, agents and counsellors in India to understand their
concerns and queries, since the outbreak of the pandemic. Students value, and
aspire for, a higher education degree from coveted international universities,
however, their concerns include visa application process, employability, and
health and safety, given the current situation.
To understand student sentiment during the pandemic, we (British Council)
conducted a survey to understand how students are adapting their study abroad
plans. The survey responses gave a snapshot of Indian students’ current study
* 65% of Indian undergraduates and 59% of postgraduates who had planned
to study in the UK in 2020/21 said they are “not at all likely” to cancel or
delay their plans
* 80% of the selected Chevening scholars are preparing their paperwork
to travel to the UK this autumn.
The UK government is working to ensure that existing visa processes are as
flexible as possible and aims to process applications as quickly as possible.
The number of Indian students studying in the UK has been going up, and Indians
are among the fastest-growing nationalities of students in the UK. Moreover,
the visa issue rate for Indian students is 96%, which is well above the global
To guide students and parents with concerns on visa applications, available
scholarships and enrolment requirements for various UK universities, the
British Council has taken its popular ‘Study UK’ fair online. The virtual fair
will provide the most recent information with a range of topics that help
students and their parents to decide the UK university of their choice.
Has the pandemic stopped the internationalisation of education which most
universities were strategically planning?
The internationalisation of higher education between India and the UK is
achieved through various meaningful engagements and bilateral collaborations.
These include initiatives to further linkages between the two countries in
research and innovation, student mobility and academic exchange.
Universities are taking positive strides towards internationalisation of
education; in the current academic year, international students are learning at
the same world-leading institutions, with quality teaching and excellent
employment prospects. The UK universities are supporting students as they adapt
to online and blended models of learning which is overseen by strict quality
assurance guidelines, backed by the wealth of experience and international
expertise that UK HE sector is known for. Students are getting access and
exposure to world-leading academic experts, and a virtual international
community to interact with.
Some key examples of internationalisation include
Last month, Governments of Telangana and Wales signed a Memorandum of
Understanding (MoU) to further bilateral research and education exchange
between both the entities. The key areas of interest include promoting
research, entrepreneurship, and innovation, university partnerships including
areas of Science and Technology and improving employability and skills among
students in Telangana.
Two universities in Scotland – St Andrews and Aberdeen have partnered with
Ahmedabad University to investigate new approaches to the management of coastal
wetland habitats in India following research funding from the Royal Society of
Edinburgh (RSE). The fund is a new grant scheme funded by the Scottish
Government for enhancing the existing international research partnerships
between Scottish universities and partners in India, Japan and Pakistan.
UK-India Education and Research Initiative (UKIERI) is a unique programme
funded by the governments of the UK and India, that aims to strengthen
education and research collaboration between the two countries.
This year, because of the pandemic, many of the programmes are now being
delivered online. This includes the UKIERI-DST (Department of Science and
Technology, Ministry of Education) Partnership Development Workshops, which has
researchers from both countries sharing trends, research and discussing
relevant themes like Big Data, Renewable energy and Machine Learning among
others. The Higher Education Leadership Development Programme for
Administrators (HELDPA) also under UKIERI, began online in November 2020. The
training will enhance the core knowledge and skills of middle and senior level
administrative staff in Indian HEIs affiliated with University Grants
Commission (UGC); in turn, supporting the advancement of Indian higher
To support the universities, will the UK government announce changes in the
visa policies and longer stay back options after completing the course for
The UK government has confirmed that new international students starting their
degree in the 2020-21 academic year will be able to begin their studies through
distance learning and remain eligible for their Tier 4 student visa if they
transition to face-to-face learning as soon as circumstances allow it. The
‘Graduate Route’ scheme allows two-year (up to three years for PhD students)
post-study work visa to international graduates completing their studies at the
UK universities, expanding opportunities for talented international students to
build successful careers in the UK. In case students are required to either
continue their current studies or commence a new course by distance or blended
learning due to COVID-19, they will still be eligible to switch into the
Graduate Route on a concessionary basis if they enter the UK before 6 April
2021 and complete the final semester of their studies in the UK.
What are the health safety measures which will be continuously offered to the
The UK higher education sector is working relentlessly to ensure that
international students’ physical and mental health is prioritised. Students can
get in touch with their university directly to access any information on their
health and safety. UK’s National Health Service (NHS) is accessible to both
domestic and international students. No charges will apply to testing or
treatment for Covid-19 provided to international students. International
students can access treatment that clinicians consider is immediately needed or
urgent at no upfront cost. Universities across the UK have adapted creating
blended programmes of induction events and activities to ensure students are
welcomed and to help ensure safe social interaction.
Despite the uncertainty, should the students continue to prepare their profile,
SOP etc. to get admissions in the university of their choice?
Education is an investment that offer lifelong returns. The UK higher education
sector is mindful that the Covid-19 outbreak has had a significant impact on
everybody across the world, especially on the students who want to pursue
higher education in the UK. The universities in the UK are committed to
supporting all students considering studying in the UK from January 2021. The
UK continues to welcome students from India and across the world.
To aid the students in their journey to study in the UK, the British Council is
hosting the ‘Study UK Virtual Fair’ on Saturday, 5 December 2020, online. Every
year, the British Council’s Study UK fairs attract thousands of students,
parents, education counsellors and agents to understand about courses, offers,
disciplines, scholarships, etc. from the UK universities. The virtual fair will
support students to make an informed decision by giving direct access to
representatives from over 45 UK universities and other specialists such as UK
Visas and Immigration (UKVI) on a range of themes including Statement of
Purpose (SOP) writing, International English Language Testing System (IELTS),