Sign up

Have some pie!

UK policy ‘economically illiterate’ for India relations 

Lord Bilimoria has criticised the government’s latest immigration policy statement and the detrimental effect it is having on India-UK relations and the wider economy.

Navendu Mishra, Virendra Sharma, Sanam Arora, Karan Bilimoria and Jo Johnson questioned UK immigration policy for international students. Photo: The PIE News

Bilimoria was joined by fellow parliamentarians in a demonstration of cross-party solidarity

Speaking at the launch of the National Indian Students and Alumni Union’s Achievers Honours in Westminster, Bilimoria said, “we’re damaging our whole economy by having this hostile approach, let alone our international appeal.

“Raising the minimum [skilled worker visa] salary threshold to nearly £40,000? What an economically illiterate move that is for our economy.”

Bilimoria first proposed a two year post-study visa for the UK to the House of Lords back in 2007.

He was joined at the launch by fellow parliamentarians including Virendra Sharma, Jo Johnson, Gareth Thomas and Navendu Mishra in a demonstration of cross-party solidarity for the invaluable ‘human bridge’ that connects India and the UK through international education.

A broad representation of universities, pathway partners, testing solutions, Indian press delegates and Home Office officials were also in attendance.

Gareth Thomas, current shadow minister for trade said, the truth is that we need the relationship between Britain and India to get deeper because Britain’s economy needs to grow and grow quickly.

“India is going to be one of the great powerhouses [in business terms], over the next 20 years, and Britain needs to deepen our relationship quickly with India to take advantage of it.”

As reported in The PIE, British universities have seen a decline or flatlining of Indian student enrolments in September with further falls predicted for January.

Sanam Arora, chairperson for NISAU, explained that fall was a direct result of the unwelcoming message already being communicated to prospective Indian students.

When the dependency policy was announced earlier in the year, I believe that [triggered] a 60% fall in student numbers coming from India, according to emerging data,” said Arora.

The students we speak to [at NISAU] are feeling like cash-cows, to be quite blunt. I fear that we’re going to go downhill to around 35,000 [Indian students coming to the UK per year] as we saw between 2000-2013.”

NISAU was formed as a student association in the wake of a widespread government crackdown on compliance in 2012 which included London Metropolitan University losing its sponsor licence and the first post-study work visa route being removed entirely.

Many Indian students were left in limbo with their finances and immigration status left in disarray.

“It feels like a bit of deja vu,” recalled Arora.

[Eleven years ago] nearly a thousand colleges and universities lost their global sponsor status overnight. [This was also done] in a bid for better compliance but what wasn’t foreseen was the impact that that would have on tens of thousands of international students and their families.

“Forget consumer rights – at times it was a case of whether their human rights were being looked after,” Arorar continued.

The latest government announcement that the Graduate Route is to be reviewed has understandably unsettled the sector as it struggles to manage the message.

It comes despite the UK reaching a landmark recognition of qualifications with India in 2022, as part of priority country mandate from the international education strategy.

The PIE spoke to Dhananjay Thakare, a former Indian civil servant, now studying for a masters in public policy at LSE, on the policy changes.

“The students we speak to [at NISAU] are feeling like cash-cows, to be quite blunt”

“I know lots of students who wanted to study in UK, but after all these these things happening in UK, there are some policies which will now attract them to work or study in Australia or Canada,” explained Thakare.

“A thing which is very important however, is that students themselves don’t explore policy level speculation happening in the UK. They are dependent on the people who tell them about the policy benefits or threats – especially the agencies which are recruiting them to study overseas.”

ETS Global, who are sponsoring the NISAU Achievers Honours, also announced an agreement with the Andhra Pradesh state government in India, to provide customised English assessments to schools to facilitate closer ties with UK education system.

Lord Johnson, Conservative backbencher and former minister of state for universities, science, research and innovation gave an update on the proposed review from the Migration Advisory Committee.

The review was announced a few days ago. It won’t report until September next year, as I understand,” explained Johnson.

“As a result, there is still plenty of time to go on with this question and we should not underestimate its importance to the future of this relationship [between India and the UK]. The flow of talent in both directions remains very strong.

On the review of the Graduate Route, I think it’s very important that that review is focussed narrowly on any abuses of the route, rather than any wholesale re-questioning of the role of the post-study work visa here in the UK.”

The NISAU Achievers Awards is an annual flagship celebration of the impact Indian graduates are making in the world.

In 2023, a group of 75 leading names from across every corner of global society were honoured at ceremonies in Delhi and London.

They included actress Parineeti Chopra (University of Manchester), politician Raghav Chadha (LSE) and Adar Poonawalla (University of Westminster), who is the CEO of the Serum Institute of India, which led the manufacturing of the University of Oxford and Astrazeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine.

“I think it’s very important that that review is focussed narrowly on any abuses of the route”

Nominations for the 2024 awards are now open, and universities will be keen to showcase their high-achieving Indian alumni and celebrate their success.

Mobilising the sector to showcase international student outcomes and the value of a UK degree, will be vitally important as prospective students weigh-up their global study options.

“Students have choices,” said Arora. “I think we need to understand that countries like Canada and Australia are increasing the duration of their post-study work visas and we seem to be reversing [ours] or at least creating the perception that [future policy changes] will happen.”


Do you think that national policy on immigration is hurting the UK’s appeal for Indian students? Are students and families aware of this debate or are other factors limiting numbers of students considering the UK? Have your say in the comments below or email

Related articles

Still looking? Find by category:

Add your comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Disclaimer: All user contributions posted on this site are those of the user ONLY and NOT those of The PIE Ltd or its associated trademarks, websites and services. The PIE Ltd does not necessarily endorse, support, sanction, encourage, verify or agree with any comments, opinions or statements or other content provided by users.

To receive The PIE Weekly with our top stories and insights, and other updates from us, please