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Indians flock to UK universities to study

smallnine years Previously only a few hundred Indian citizens attended classes at the University of East London (UEL), the former Polytechnic with campuses in Stratford and Docklands. By last year, more than 6,000 students, about a quarter of the total, were from India. Newcomers are helping transform it. Amanda Broderick, vice-chancellor, whose office is just off the runway at rumbling London City airport, said her students used to come from “only three boroughs” in the capital. Sudden, UEL There is a global feel. It is also thriving. Since 2017, overall enrollment on campus has grown by more than 60%.

nor UEL alone. Universities across the UK have experienced a surge in applications from India, Nigeria and elsewhere in recent years. The number of Indians starting new courses in the UK has increased sixfold between 2017 and 2021 (see chart). Visa data shows that by last year, India had overtaken China as the number one source of British students.New arrivals make up for sharp drop in Europeans, who flee post-Brexit, which ends European Union Students pay domestic level fees.

Most of India’s newcomers are graduate students — only a quarter are undergraduates. The largest groups come from Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, two southeastern states with many tech and engineering companies and a government that encourages study abroad. Chinese students are more undergraduates and they are clustered in prestigious (and expensive) “Russell Group” universities, while Indian students are more widely distributed.

What explains the rise? The most important is the change of visa rules in 2019. Officials revived a program that allowed foreigners to stay and work for two years after graduation. Darshan Dhabi, who is studying for a Masters in Business, said the ‘time to breathe’ was very popular UEL. Students use these years to find employers to sponsor long-term visas, or to struggle to earn enough to pay off their debts. (No doubt they also help alleviate labor shortages.)

This has been a boon for college finances. Foreigners pay more than locals and now provide about a fifth of university earnings. This is helpful for domestic students. Despite soaring inflation, tuition fees in England have held steady over the past six years. Certain courses barely exist without foreigners. In subjects such as business and management, there are about 10 graduate students from overseas for every 10 Britons.

Not everything is rosy. A ruling Conservative politician trying to sound tough on immigration has made the embarrassing admission that the number of overseas students is soaring. In May, the government said most foreign graduate students would now be barred from having a spouse or child accompany them: some 40,000 such dependents joined the country’s 140,000 Indian students last year. Quentin McKellar, vice-chancellor of the University of Hertfordshire, which has around 6,000 Indian students, fears the change will send a message that the UK is no longer welcome.

A related risk is that immigrant students, often lured by smooth-talking recruiters, find that the UK offers them a less than ideal experience. Amit Tiwari of the British Indian National Students’ Association said an increasingly common complaint was the high cost of living, especially expensive housing. Some students also lamented that three years after the pandemic began, universities were still offering too much online teaching.

British universities are believed to be in danger of short selling foreign students. The eager supply of recruits won’t dry up anytime soon, but international competition for them is growing. not only. Homegrown Indian universities, whether foreign affiliates or purely homegrown, are proliferating. Mr Tiwari says learning from home is more attractive than ever: “This is not the India of 10 years ago”.

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