Cheer For Indian Students As UK Changes Student Visa Policy

Theresa May’s controversial decision in 2011 to veto the two-year extension on the TIER 4 student visa for foreign students led to a dramatic 50% drop in the number of Indian students choosing the U.K. as a university destination. Numbers went from 52,218 in 2010 to 22,757 in 2011 and touched 15,388 in 2017. In a move to correct this decline, Prime Minister Boris Johnson reinstated the two-year work visa just recently.

Here are some reasons why the number of students flocking to the U.K. will increase substantially in the future :

1. Duration And Cost Of The Undergraduate Degree

Unlike the U.S., where the majority of undergraduate degrees are four years, in the U.K., most degrees are three years. This automatically means students will save one year of tuition fees. For example, completing a BSc Economics degree at the London School of Economics and Political Science only takes three years, where the tuition fee per year is $26,750. At the University of Pennsylvania, a similar, reputed college in the U.S., the annual tuition is $58,000, costing a family $2,32,000 for their child’s entire four-year degree course. By choosing a top U.K. university, parents end up saving about $1,51,750 in tuition costs. (NOTE: Living costs vary in different parts of the U.K. and the U.S.).

Also, many universities in the U.K. offer integrated master’s programs, where students can complete a master’s four years after they finish high school. For example, the molecular and cellular biochemistry degree at Oxford University is an integrated master’s program, where all students graduate with a master’s degree. This is extremely beneficial as students attain a higher qualification studying in the U.K. as compared to the U.S. in the same amount of time.

2. Similar Education Systems

India’s education system is similar to that of the U.K. In the A-level/Pre-U curriculum (U.K. 11th and 12th-grade curriculum), students choose three or four subjects for in-depth study. Students studying Indian boards in grades 11 and 12, such as the ISC, HSC or CBSE also do the same. Therefore, the transition to a U.K. university is relatively easier for Indian students.

In addition, degrees in the U.K. run on a single track and students only study the subject that they are majoring in, which is similar to India. This is very different from the liberal arts education that all U.S. universities require in a core curriculum. Students who study say, for example, engineering in the U.S., have to take courses in humanities, arts and social sciences also to earn the credits to fulfill their undergraduate degree requirements. In the U.K., students studying engineering, only take courses related to their major.

Therefore, if students know what they want to study, the U.K. is an excellent option.

Conversely, for students who have multiple interests and want to obtain a liberal arts degree, U.K. universities have also started offering this option. Colleges such as King’s College London, Royal Holloway and the University of Bristol, all offer “liberal arts” courses, which students can complete in three years.

3. Admission Requirements

Most U.K. universities base their admission decisions primarily on the student’s academic ability, whereas the U.S. takes a more holistic approach. Students who are strong academically and haven’t pursued many extracurricular activities have a better chance of being admitted to top universities in the U.K. over other countries.

4. STEM Vs. Non-STEM

In the U.S., students who did not study a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering And Mathematics) subject in their undergraduate degree can apply for only one year of extension on their student visa under the OPT scheme, whereas STEM students can increase this by 24 months. For students studying subjects such as journalism, design, finance, law and marketing, the recently reinstated two-year extension in the U.K. is a better option. Business schools in the U.K. will also see increased interest as most MBA degrees fall under the non-STEM bracket in the U.S. The two-year extension is also beneficial to recruiters as companies now don’t have to worry about their employee’s visa status.

5. Distance To India

As the U.K. is an eight-hour flight from India, parents are comforted knowing that their child is closer to home. The long distance to the U.S. and Canada can be a barrier for parents considering study-abroad destinations for their children.

“The introduction of the two-year work visa in the U.K. is an excellent step for my family,” says S. Kakkar. “We were keen to send our daughter abroad to benefit from the international learning experiences that these universities offer, but the U.S. was too far. Now that we know she can stay and work in the U.K., post her degree, we are definitely applying to the U.K.”

The number of Indian students who study abroad every year is gradually increasing.  In the U.S., over 35% of the 586,183 students are Indian. Now that the U.K. has changed its immigration policy, it is definitely back in serious contention.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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