Speaking at the event being held on December 4 and 5 at the QEII Centre in London, NISAU chair Sanam Arora said that it may be time to consider how commercialisation of the sector may be hurting the UK’s competitiveness for Indian students.
“I think understanding the expectations of students in India from an employment, growth and gross revenue perspective is key,” said Arora.
“Our [careers] services here [in the UK] – it’s a slightly hands off approach. In India, we have campus placement, for example. It’s an entirely different set of expectations.
“Our own research has shown us that 70% of Indian students want work experience, for example, to be a primary factor in education. So it’s about embedding that work experience within the institution,” she argued.
Vinay Pathak, who is vice president at the Association of Indian Universities, pointed out that while employability is a key factor for Indians, it is perhaps worth looking at the education system itself.
“We have to ask whether we are making the education system only about employment, only for the employability – or for the society to grow in harmony – it’s a fundamental question that we must reflect upon,” he noted.
In terms of mobility, Arora noted the Turing Scheme, and how that could be doing much more for equitable mobility – for example, sending more British students to India.
“Are we really prioritising student outcomes? To understand [them], we need to be looking at local issues within the country,” she urged.
Also on the panel was lead for UK Education trade with India, South Asia, China and HK at the Department for Business and Trade, Krishna Joshi – who defended the government’s current international education strategy, which often makes the point of “mutually beneficial” work.
“I think what really marks the success of a UK university is if it’s done its research, essentially. That’s the reason why we take our trade missions, and why these conferences are so helpful.
“The government also has seven or eight high commissions around India to support local knowledge and intel,” Joshi noted to delegates.
Joshi referred to the new GIFT City project that has been developed in Gujarat as a draft of what could be pulled together to effectively marry institutions and work experience, with big banks and firms right next to university campuses.
“I think there’s a real movement, which I think is positive of having physical spaces in some states in India which try and seek to support lifelong learning.
“So whether that’s a university campus where you can go and do a fintech course at an institution, or when you can go up to JP Morgan office and get that experience.
“Looking at the start to end of education feels very important,” she noted.
“I don’t think that there is a good enough understanding of contemporary India”
The conversation took place hours before an announcement from the UK’s home secretary James Cleverly, saying that a “review of the graduate route” – a cornerstone in international graduate employability options in the UK – would be taking place amid concerns of its uptake and “opportunities for abuse”.
Arora also touched upon the idea of legacy within looking at partnerships – not understanding the history between India and the UK, for example, could have a detrimental impact.
“I don’t think that there is a good enough understanding of contemporary India on the streets. That has changed for China – we understand China a lot better now, for example.
“If you don’t understand how India is seeing you in terms of that history, because you don’t know any better, are you able to really take advantage of all the opportunities that exist?
“That lack of understanding and knowledge might actually put you in sort of lesser footing,” she added.