(c) Mat Wright

After 5 years of declining trends, the latest home office statistics show a 2.3% increase in India student visas issued in 2016 compared to 2015

9 March 2017

The latest UK visa and immigration (UKVI) figures released for 2016 indicate that the Indian market has turned and now is primed for growth and investment.

This will be a welcome morale boost for UK Universities recruiting in India, and there are a range of likely reasons for this. Firstly, the combined efforts under the 2016 UK-India year of education research and innovation would have raised the profile of the UK. The UKVI processes in India are much improved and more transparent. And India is a price sensitive market - the pound falling 20% against the Indian rupee following the EU referendum may well have had an impact. 

For many UK Universities, India remains a priority for research, partnership and recruitment and many have modified their offer to more attractive to the market, by offering more post graduate courses with work attachments and longer (21 and 22 month) courses, circumventing the one year masters recognition policy issue. Many UK universities have taken more wide ranging partnership models, including summer courses and new links with private institutions. In a country with the fastest growing smart phone market in the world, investing in digital marketing skills and better big data analytics can help Universities with their marketing efforts. 

Alumni relations are also an important factor. Alumni are, after all, universities greatest advocates – and the most cost effective. Our international Alumni Awards (hosted this year in India by Sir Dominic Asquith, High Commissioner) and UK alumni careers fairs have been welcome innovations supporting this. 

Bilateral partnership schemes such as the Newton Fund and UKIERI, and enhanced scholarship offers including the joint funded GREAT UK University scholarship scheme, the largest Chevening programme in the world, and Commonwealth and Charles Wallace scholarships, also help to build and support the UK India market. 

As the Indian economy continues to grow (around 8% GDP growth per annum) so the demand for a more diverse range of skills is required and Indian students are applying to a much broader range of courses than before. India has one of the most rapid processes of urbanisation in the world. As the middle class grows, demand for training is outstripping supply in these cities and in turn is creating more opportunity for the UK as a destination. The relationship between universities and cities will be the feature of further discussion at Going Global this May. 

Put in context the UK is still way behind the US in market share, and India now falls behind China, USA and Malaysia in terms of contributing students to the UK according to 2015/16 HESA figures, but after five years of decline, this small increase is a small positive market indicator for UK Universities and Colleges. 

Richard Everitt

Director Education & Society for the British Council in India

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