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 :
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.