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International students should not be included in UK’s net migration figures, feels Lord Bilimoria


Amidst concerns over the government of Britain planning to restrict international student visas, Karan Bilimoria, president of the UK Council on International Student Affairs (UKCISA) and co-chair of UK’s all party parliamentary group for international students, has strongly recommended that students should not be included in net migration figures of the UK. “According to the UN net migration figures, anyone who lives in a country for more than a year is a migrant. However, most of the countries that are our competitors for international students exclude them when they report domestic net migration figures. International students in the UK, too, should not be counted in the domestic net migration figures since most of them return to their home countries after their education,” Bilimoria told the Times of India. In a recent debate in the UK House of Lords, Bilimoria found cross-body support from a majority of MPs on the issue of removing international students from the calculation of net migration figures. Addressing concerns over any restrictions to the two-year post-study work (PSW) visa, which is granted to international students since July 2021; Bilimoria felt that it is imperative to keep this route going. “The PSW visa route has been a hit with Indian students since it was brought back in 2021. The number one reason for Indians not choosing the UK for higher education had been the scrapping of the post-study work permit in 2012. I have spoken to leaders from the education sector of various countries such as Australia, America and New Zealand, at a recent conference, and they all felt that the post graduate work visa for international students is very attractive. The UK should not make any changes to the policy of allowing international students to stay on for two years after they graduate with unrestricted work rights. This helps students to pay for their education,” he said. He added that international students were important assets for Britain and enriched the experience of domestic students and they also provided a talented work pool to employers. “They are good for the economy of Britain and help build bridges with other nations. Nothing should be done to jeopardise the future of Indians, who are now the largest number of international students in the UK,” he said. Lord Bilimoria, who is the first Indian born chancellor of the University of Birmingham, feels that the PSW visa is helping attract more Indian students to the university. “The number of Indian students is increasing significantly after the PSW visa was launched. There are several members of the staff who are of Indian origin as well as many famous alumni,” he said. In November last year, the UoB and IIT Madras have launched a joints masters programme. On the issue of crackdown on some colleges, when granting student visas, because they were perceived to be dubious; Bilimoria felt that institutions in the UK which were accredited and authorised should all continue to be eligible to enrol international students. “Not all universities get top ranking; but there are many who have rich offerings in different subjects such as catering and film studies. That doesn’t make them bogus colleges. They could even be among the best in the world in those specialised fields of study,” he said. Watch Lord Karan Bilimoria: ‘International students in the UK should not be counted in domestic net migration figures’

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