Two new developments point to greater UK-India educational collaborations

There are two recent announcements that point to an interesting dynamic developing in India-UK education collaborations.

Tightening student immigration costs the UK economy billions

First, a report released recently by Exporting Education UK and Parthenon-EY has quantified the economic impact of the UK’s tightening immigration policy for students, finding the drop in international student arrivals over the last five years has cost the country an estimated £1.1bn, with an additional £8bn in opportunity cost lost.

Total losses to UK economy from immigration policy.png

This has come in the form of restrictions on part-time work rights in 2012, followed in subsequent years by the removal of post-study work visas, expansion of credibility interviews and the creation of the NHS levy.

Although the number of British Deputy High Commissions has expanded significantly in India, prospective students perceive visa decisions as being based on subjective criteria. At the same time, the rule changes have not stopped the most determined of the types of applicants the Home Office seeks to deter. A number of further education colleges were suspended in 2014 to stem this behaviour.

The report points to the lost opportunities with markets such as India, which it says “are at their peak of expansion.” Lord Karan Bilimoria, Chancellor of the University of Birmingham and President of the UK Council for International Student Affairs cites a missed opportunity because “this rate of growth will not last and will not be repeated.” Lord Bilimoria is a speaker at the upcoming Education Innovation Conference, hosted by Microsoft in January 2017, that will focus on many of these issues.

Given the former Home Minister, under whose watch this tightening of student immigration took place, is now the Prime Minister, it may represent a permanent missed opportunity for the UK.

India moves to open up international collaboration

India’s University Grants Commission (UGC), the statutory body responsible for coordination of standards in higher education, announced new regulations earlier in the month, that aim to open up additional links between Indian and foreign universities with the goal to “offer students additional choices, improve curriculum and the delivery of knowledge and educational content.”

Previously, only foreign universities could initiate partnerships with Indian institutions; now Indian institutions can reach out proactively. Although the new rules stop short of allowing joint degrees, universities can provide joint programmes under which Indian students may go abroad for a portion of their studies, for which they earn academic credit. Organisations such as UKIERI, British Council and private players such as education market entry consultancy Sannam S4 will say much of this collaboration is happening already.

In fact, the UGC recently ordered the closure of Pearl Academy, a popular fashion school with more than 4,000 students, because they were illegally offering degrees from Nottingham Trent University.

So in that sense, this is an evolution of that framework of collaboration, rather than revolution. It gives a firmer basis upon which foreign partners can collaborate in India.

The UK-India opportunity

Indian students are finding it more difficult to travel to the UK to study. They are also cost-sensitive. Therefore, they may prefer a blended learning approach for shorter courses rather than on-campus studying for a full degree.

Therefore, both these point to a great opportunity. Participating students will receive their degrees from their home institutions, but their studies abroad will be recognised in their academic transcripts.

Sharon Bamford, Vice-President of market entry consultancy Sannam S4, says “We have always maintained that when India establishes a compliant way to enable partnerships, it will become a very attractive TNE market and has the potential to overtake China in numbers. The UK is hugely successful in implementing TNE models worldwide and with the large number of private universities that are being established in India, it has the potential to open up great opportunities for UK institutions in their engagement with India.”

Coupled with the rapid recent depreciation of the GBP to Rs 88, studying with a UK institution may be increasingly attractive even if studying in the UK may not be.

Some UK institutions are well placed to develop their market offering for India. Many of these will be attending the conference in January which, now in its third year, is fast becoming a clearing house for UK and Indian institutions seeking commercial partnerships. Others are more keen to tread carefully. More challenging times in British higher education funding may compel them to become more savvy in their approach to India.

This article was originally published in India GB News.