The United Kingdom finds itself in a strange situation. In light of Brexit, they need new trade partners across the globe. The ruling Tory party and Prime Minister Theresa May has repeatedly stated that they see the Commonwealth – and specifically India – as a replacement for the European Union.
At the same time, they have to be seen to be strong on immigration and nationalism. For some countries in the commonwealth, such as Australia and Canada, this is not so much of a problem. However, when it comes to India, they have a delicate balancing act to manage.
As such, their latest study in contradiction came with a visa law that they wish to reform. While they are relaxing the certain professional visa laws – thereby letting in more Indian doctors, nurses and STEM professionals – they have also excluded Indians from a reform in the student visa.
Essentially, citizens of a few second and third world countries will now have to provide fewer documents to apply for a student visa. Included in these nations is China, Bahrain, Thailand, Maldives and Serbia. However, India has been deliberately excluded, leading to politicians in India to brand the move an “act of self-harm” and a “kick in the teeth for New Delhi.”
While the British lawmakers behind this exclusion have defended themselves by saying that 90% of Indian applicants are approved for visas and that Indians still constitute one of the highest foreign delegations at UK universities, the numbers speak for themselves.
The last few years have seen drastically reduced numbers of Indian students applying to the UK. The last year only saw around 16,000 new students. In comparison, applications to universities in USA, Canada and Australia have been dramatically on the rise. There were 100,000 applicants to Canadian institutions last year.
With rising costs at British universities and bilateral trade talks on the horizon with India, the British government needs to choose a path to follow soon. Their current compromise-first attitude is not going to help them build a strong reputation with Europe, India or the British citizens themselves.
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