How the UK is quietly closing its border to international students

International students can no longer access British education easily
International students can no longer access British education easily

Having recently graduated from a British University, I can safely say that it was a challenging, but 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 most of their funding from them.

But that’s not the case in Great Britain. The British Home Office made a major change to the student immigration rules on 12th November, 2015.

Before the 12th of November last year, if your course lasts for nine months you must have £9,180 (eight lakh rupees) for maintenance funds if your university is located in London, or £7,380 (nearly six and a half lakhs) if your university was located outside London. Your ‘maintenance funds’ consists living expenses in the UK.

But the British Home Office stated on its website that overseas students need to have 24 per cent more towards their maintenance funds. For those unlucky individuals who submitted their applications on or after 12th November, will need £11,385 (10 lakhs) if their university is located in London, and £9,135 (eight lakhs) 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 claimed to build a wall around their border, but after this announcement, clearly they’ve already erected invisible moats. As the ‘Tories’ or the Conservative government is currently in power, their anti-immigration policy has extended towards students as well. I know that the amount required for funds will only further increase in the future, making it harder and harder for Indian to afford their education.

A conglomerate of proud nations which proclaims to be the polar opposite of Donald Trump, the UK has only made changes to reduce non- European immigration. The Conservatives prefer to have a nation with only Britons, as ‘Asians are taking away their jobs’. A similar claim Americans had previously made. The Conservatives want a homogenous society that once existed in Britain. Prime Minister Theresa May made a statement at the end of 2015, proclaiming that: “Immigration hinders cohesion of society.”

Coming from a diverse country like India, her words sounded like absolute nonsense. It had glaring tones of racism, Xenophobia and communalism in it. India is defined by its diversity and so is Britain. You will never find a Polish, German and Mexican restaurant next each other in any other part of the world. This might not be the case anymore.

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, its 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 to 2015, according to the statistics released by the Home Office there has been a 10 per cent decrease of 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?

My counter argument is simple. When a student gets a loan worth 15 lakh rupees with an interest rate of 13 per cent, getting a job in the UK to repay it is essential. With the exchange rates, 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 of the 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 spending anymore 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 are quietly reducing immigration.

So for all those planning to study Britain, think twice before applying in case you’re hoping to get a work permit there.

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