Having recently graduated from a British University, I can safely say that it was a challenging and expensive experience. It is obvious that heavy financial backing is required to study abroad. Usually, foreign countries do everything in their power to make immigration easier for international students as they get most of their funding from them, but that's not the case in Great Britain. The British Home Office made major changes to the student immigration rules on 12 November, 2015.
The UK has found yet another way to obtain wealth, whilst simultaneously closing its borders.
Before the 12th of November last year, if your course lasted for nine months you had to have £9,180 (₹8 lakh) for maintenance funds (living expenses) if your university was located in London, or £7,380 (nearly ₹6.5 lakh) if your university was elsewhere in the country.
Now, overseas students need to have 24% more funds in their account for maintenance expenses. Those unlucky individuals who submitted their applications on or after 12 November need £11,385 (₹10 lakh) if their university is located in London, and £9,135 (₹8 lakh) if their university is outside London, for a nine-month course.
I find this completely outrageous, as the UK has found yet another way to obtain wealth, whilst simultaneously closing its borders. Unlike Donald Trump, the UK has not declared an intention to build a wall around their border, this announcement makes it clear that they have erected invisible moats. It's clear that the Conservative government's anti-immigration stance has extended to students as well, and I won't be surprised if the required funds are hiked again, making it harder for Indians to afford a UK education.
David Cameron may have criticized Trump's "divisive" politics, but the UK's policies belie this stance. Interestingly, the UK has only made changes to reduce non- European immigration, ostensibly because Asians are "taking away our jobs". Sounds pretty Trump-like to me. Much like Trump, the Conservatives are harking back to the homogenous society of yore, Prime Minister Theresa May categorically stating that immigration makes it "impossible to build a cohesive society."
Coming from a diverse country like India, her words sounded like absolute nonsense. They had glaring tones of racism, xenophobia and communalism. India is defined by its diversity and so is Britain. You will rarely find a Polish, German and Mexican restaurant next to each other in any other part of the world. This might not be the case anymore.
Between March 2014 and 2015, according to the statistics released by the Home Office, there has been a 10% decrease in Indians studying in the UK.
Being an international student pursuing a journalism degree, I rang up the Home Office demanding why they were against student immigration. A Home Office spokesperson claimed otherwise: "Since 2010, the student immigration policy was used as a gateway to obtain a British work visa. When we refuse a visa it is because the applicant has not met our rules. Our reforms—which include introducing English language requirements, making sure students can support themselves, and stopping bogus students and colleges from abusing the system—are all part of our plan to control immigration for the benefit of Britain. There is absolutely no evidence that any of these moves have deterred genuine international students. The UK is the second most popular destination for international higher education students. There has been a 17% increase in student visa applications for universities since 2010."
The claims of the Home Office are true, in the case of China and Malaysia. But the case in India is different. Between March 2014 and 2015, according to the statistics released by the Home Office, there has been a 10% decrease in Indians studying in the UK.
I would like to ask the Conservatives how they plan to get finance for universities if Indian students, who are the third largest non- European student population, will not come to the UK?
For all those planning to study in Britain, think twice before applying in case you're hoping to get a work permit there.
My counter argument is simple. When a student gets a loan worth ₹15 lakh with an interest rate of 13%, getting a job in the UK to repay it is essential. Earning in pounds will help me repay my loan much faster. But the Conservative government has ensured that I can't obtain a job easily either.
A British student visa lasts for 16 months, and I was in class on all five working days, until April. I had to work for four months on my dissertation, whilst simultaneously looking for a job. Many British employers demand to know whether you have a British or European passport. There are no "other" options in many of the application forms, narrowing down the list of choices for me.
By the end of August, I still didn't have a job. If I persistently continue job hunting whilst still living in the UK, for another five months, I would have to spend another few lakhs. I cannot afford to spend any more money, pinning my hopes on luck and talent, while the chances are so slim. So I would like to applaud the Conservative government on their hypocrisy and slyness, as they go about quietly reducing immigration.
So for all those planning to study in Britain, think twice before applying in case you're hoping to get a work permit there.