Graduate Route should stay and international students are integral to UK universities, says Karan Bilimoria

The House of Lords' member's comment comes amid reports that Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is backtracking on a controversial plan to scrap the Graduate Route visa .
Last Updated : 23 May 2024, 14:45 IST
Last Updated : 23 May 2024, 14:45 IST

Follow Us :


Bengaluru: Indians aspiring to study and work in the UK need not be concerned about anti-immigration narratives that do not reflect the national sentiment, Karan Bilimoria, member of the House of Lords, said.

His comment comes amid reports that Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is backtracking on a controversial plan to scrap the Graduate Route visa which enables international students to work in the UK, after studies, for up to two years.

Speaking with DH in Bengaluru, he said a “very small minority” in the current dispensation adopted an alarmist approach to overseas students but the UK could not afford to alienate these students who make up about 40% of the intake in the country’s Master’s programmes.

Bilimoria, chancellor of the University of Birmingham (UoB) and president of the UK Council on International Student Affairs, argued that restrictions on the visa – a move to check migrant influx – would be “disastrous” for the universities. The uncertainty has already led to a 63% drop in deposits, across universities, for the next academic year.

“International students are a significant part of our universities and contribute £ 42 billion to the UK economy, every year. They constitute about 15% of students in the UG programmes but in the postgraduate programmes, particularly the one-year Master’s, they are at about 40%. Financially strong institutions like the UoB won’t be affected (by the restrictions) but many other universities will struggle,” he said.

No abuse, says review

Sunak’s reported move to drop plans on the visa restrictions follows a two-month rapid review by the Migration Advisory Committee which dispelled apprehensions of “widespread abuse” of the Graduate Route.

Bilimoria backed a crackdown on bad practices followed by recruitment agents but said the processes were, on the whole, handled professionally. “If the students work for two years after their studies, they are earning money and work experience – this is important because they have loans to repay,” he said.

The Parliamentarian questioned the use of exaggerated immigrant figures to “scare the public” and said international students needed to be treated as temporary migrants, and not immigrants, in these figures.

Tracing the anti-immigration rhetoric to election-year political posturing, he said the narrative was being pushed by the right wing of the Conservative Party which doesn’t even speak for many members of the party, including foreign secretary David Cameron and Chancellor Jeremy Hunt.

The latest QS World University Rankings have 17 UK universities, including the UoB, in the top 100. The UoB has just opened its second Master’s programme in collaboration with IIT Madras, on Sustainable Energy Systems. Last year, it launched the first programme under the joint initiative, in AI and Data Science.

Over the last three years, the university has taken in around 2,400 Indian students; business, engineering, and computer science are among the most popular streams. It currently has in operation around 40 cross-border research projects with Indian academic institutions.

Published 23 May 2024, 14:45 IST

Follow us on :

Follow Us