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UK universities' minister in India to 'welcome' students

UK minister to visit India

London, Nov 11: Hit by a drop in Indian students in its universities due to stricter visa regime, the UK is sending a minister to India this week to reverse the unwelcoming image of Britain.

Minister for Science and Universities, Greg Clark, will lead a delegation of prominent UK university vice-chancellors to Delhi this week to address the growing unwelcoming image of Britain among Indian students due to a stricter visa regime. The visit is aimed at presenting an inviting image of Britain after the fall of nearly 15% in the number of students coming from India to study in the UK.

"There have been concerns expressed in India about how welcoming we will be towards students studying in the UK," Clark said. "We not only want to extend the most cordial of welcomes to Indian students but we want to say further there is no cap on the number of students," he added.

The president of Universities UK, a representative organisation for the UK's universities, who is accompanying the minister from today till Thursday said the visit was an opportunity to build on the "significant higher education links" that exist between the two countries.

"Universities UK, as a representative body for all the UK's universities, will continue to campaign to ensure that we attract qualified international students and staff to the country. This includes looking to broaden the opportunities for qualified international graduates to stay in the UK to work for a period and contribute to the economy," Prof Christopher Snowden said.

"It is important to also stress that international students can still work for 20 hours a week during their studies in the UK, and that post-study work opportunities in graduate jobs are still available," he added, in reference to one of the key issues faced by Indian students after they complete their degree.

Universities UK insists that Britain remains one of the most attractive destinations in the world for international students. India is the second most popular country of overseas students coming into the UK, second to China, and there are currently 22,385 Indian students enrolled at higher education institutions, of whom 12,280 were new entrants in 2012-13.

"We attract students from a wide range of countries including many from India. Indian students, alongside other international students, make a valuable contribution to higher education and the UK's academically, culturally and economically. They have a positive experience during their time in the UK, and the reputation of our universities overseas remains strong, in terms of quality and global rankings," Prof Snowden said.

The delegation also includes Indian-origin entrepreneur and Chancellor of Birmingham University, Lord Bilimoria.

"There is enormous potential in continuing to build mutually beneficial links between business, industry and the University of Birmingham," he said.

The other vice-chancellors on the visit include Professor Dame Glynis Breakwell of University of Bath, Professor Sir David Eastwood of University of Birmingham, Professor Dame Julia King of Aston University, Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell of University of Manchester and Professor Sir Steve Smith of University of Exeter.

PTI

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