The University of Birmingham has welcomed over 1,500 Indian students to the campus in the last five years, and their data suggests that the varsity’s postgraduate programmes are most popular among Indian students at the campus. “Programmes in Business, Computer Science, Engineering, Law, and Biosciences are very popular among Indian students,” the varsity revealed.
Lord Karan Bilimoria is the Chancellor of the University of Birmingham. As a former international student himself, he has been fighting for their rights and was one of the first to bring in the discussion about the two year post graduation work visa for international students.
The Chancellor talks about post study work visas, Indian students in the UK and the University of Birmingham, new scholarships and more.
All these are rumours that you are hearing. The University of Birmingham is clear that nothing should be done to reduce the two year post graduation visas, because it will have a very damaging effect on international students (in the UK). They will then rather head to our competitor countries such as Australia, Canada, the USA as they all offer post study work opportunities.
The two year post study work visa was instituted in 2007-2008 and it was taken away in 2011-12. It was then brought back when we fought for it. All the surveys showed that the number one reason why students from across the world, including Indian students, did not choose the UK as their first choice was the lack of post study work opportunities. Now that the two year period is back, we can see the number of international students, including Indian nationals, has increased.
Indian students have now overtaken Chinese nationals as the number one international students in the UK. We even beat the target of 6 lakh international students as today the figures are around 6.90 lakh. International students are a huge asset to our universities and to our country. More importantly, they enrich the experience of our domestic students and universities. They also become lifelong ambassadors for the UK and varsities, as they build a bridge with their home countries.
We have more world leaders who have been educated in British universities, along with America, than in any other country in the world. Look at India alone, we have had four prime ministers who have been educated in the United Kingdom. It is therefore important that we do everything in our power to attract Indian students to come and study at our universities. We’ve had Indian students in Birmingham for over one century.
Also, we have a labour shortage in the UK. To fill that gap, we have got bright international graduates, including from India, who can stay and work for two years because it gives them the ability to earn money to pay for their education, in addition to gaining work experience.
When submitting the migration figures, the UN asks countries to include international students as migrants. They are not migrants as they go back to their home countries, but they have to be included as immigrants.
The net migration figures increase in the immigration data as the number of international students increases. That raises the question of reducing the figure and one way is to reduce the number of international students. However, the correct solution is to exclude international students from the net migration figures. Other countries submit the compiled figures to the UN, but separate them for domestic purposes. That is what the United Kingdom should be doing.
There has been an increase in the number of international students heading to the UK, especially after the Covid years. Do you think the post study work visa was the reason behind it?
Very much. It is one of the main reasons, actually the only reason. Covid has affected the whole world, and also the Ukraine-Russia war. We have had three years of a global crisis like we haven’t seen since the Second World War. It has affected every country and economy in the world. It has affected every sector of the economy. So of course, study abroad has been affected, but even then we hit our target of 600,000 within the pandemic, and now we have crossed it to 690,000, and Indians continue to be the most number of international students in the UK.
There are a number of reasons why the Indians are taking the Chinese. The first and main reason is the two year post graduation work visa, as that has definitely helped a lot. Secondly, China’s had its own problems with its zero Covid policy and their whole travel restrictions and it’s been a huge issue for them.
With the increase in the number of international students in the UK, there has also been a rise in the student accommodation crisis. How is the University of Birmingham handling it?
We have been able to keep that problem in check, as all our first year students are given accommodation on campus. So we have not let any of our students down. To my knowledge, everyone has been absolutely housed.
Also, the accommodation at the University of Birmingham is state-of-the-art with amazing standards. We housed athletes during the Commonwealth Games. I understand that not every university in the UK is in a position to do what we do. We are very lucky, we are one of the biggest universities in the country.
However, there is a housing shortage in the UK, the authorities are supposed to be building 3 lakh homes a year, but they are not even building 1 lakh. So there is no question about it being a challenge to the government for years now. You need to build homes. There is a shortage overall, and that affects the students as well. But from what I know, universities have been able to help out and find a way. However, majority varsities will not be able to offer accommodation to the second and third year students, so they have to find local housing. At the University of Birmingham, we guarantee housing for all our first year students.
This is an era when Artificial Intelligence (AI) such as ChatGPT is taking over and there is a huge debate about whether or not this technology should be used in the education sector. What are your thoughts on this?
Advancement of technology is not something that we can stop, it is something that we have to work with, but the fundamentals will not change in the education sector.
If you go back 900,000 years, the whole idea of universities was to get people together, so that they could exchange ideas, be with each other, and meet each other for research. I don’t think AI can take away that power of bringing people together.
Having said that, I think we have got to focus on making sure that we continue to encourage and teach the Socratic way of learning where you question your reason, you challenge, you learn, you understand and then you apply (the theories). And of course, using every technology is going to happen in the future, but we have got to make sure we don’t forget the basics.
You just launched the Chancellor’s Scholarship for Indian students…
Being an international student myself who had to get multiple scholarships to be able to afford to study abroad, I know how difficult it is to get through this. So, I introduced the Chancellor’s scholarships for Indian students.
My main motive is that the selected students should have an excellent academic track record and demonstrate that they have overcome challenging circumstances. They should also have an innovative idea that can solve some of the complex challenges facing both the UK and India. We are looking for students who are ready to fight against the odds, and have an innovative approach.
This scholarship scheme is open to Indian students applying for postgraduate programmes at the university’s campuses in Birmingham and Dubai. Under this scholarship, the winner will be awarded a full tuition fee waiver along with the accommodation costs, up to the duration of the programme. In addition to the winner, four runner ups will be awarded a tuition fee waiver of £5,000. I will also mentor and guide the selected students.
Till now, we have received a phenomenal response to the Chancellor’s Scholarship. The award has just been announced and we are receiving many expressions of interest on a daily basis.
Additionally, in order to reward outstanding achievement and help ensure that fears about finance do not prevent prospective Indian students from considering study, the University offers a number of prestigious scholarships:
— The Global Masters Scholarship is a £2,000 scholarship for Masters study excluding Business School programmes.
— The Business School offers Indian Subcontinent Scholarships offering scholarships up to 40 per cent tuition fee waiver.
— The India Outstanding Achievement Scholarships include four scholarships of £2,500 for Indian students applying for entry to an undergraduate programme.
— In addition to these, there are a number of scholarships offered for studying in our Dubai campus offering up to 50 per cent tuition fee waiver for meritorious students.
Is the University of Birmingham interested in setting up a campus in India, now that UGC is inviting foreign universities here?
This is a great initiative and opportunity, and it will be phenomenal if we do it as it will be more affordable for Indian students with the same quality education that they would get in our UK or Dubai campus.
We are definitely dribbling with the idea, and it is a question of when we will set up the campus here. Having said that, we have just launched a campus in Dubai and our main focus right now is to ensure that the campus is running to its full potential. Setting up a campus in India is something that we will surely consider.
In the meantime, we have tied up with IIT Madras for a joint master’s degree. With this, the students get the opportunity of studying at both campuses and come up with a degree from both institutions; it’s starting off in AI and data science.
Courtesy : The Indian Express