Question: what do these people have in common? Rahul Gandhi; Manmohan Singh; Salman Khurshid; Montek Singh Aluwahlia; Cyrus Mistry; Karan Thapar; Vikram Seth; Suneet Varma; Soha Ali Khan.
The obvious answer is that they are all Indians at the top of their professions. But the more interesting answer is that they have all studied in the UK.
It says something about the quality of UK education that most of the leadership of today’s India, whether in politics, business, media and the arts have studied there. And you could add an equally illustrious list of India’s past leaders who have studied in Britain, starting with Mahatma Gandhi and Nehru.
We are of course pleased that India’s present and past leaders chose education in the UK. We want India’s future leaders to make that choice as well. And it is a choice – increasingly so as the world changes and India itself and other countries offer good education too.
So why should young Indians choose the UK as a place to study, over all our competitors? Here are my Top Ten reasons to choose the UK.
UK education is the best in the world. The UK has 4 of the top 6 universities in the world, according to the latest rankings of global universities carried out by the QS organisation. And out of the top 100 world universities, 18 are in the UK.
In the UK you can study anything, anywhere. There are over 300 institutes of higher learning in the UK. They offer thousands of different courses. If you can’t study it in the UK, you wouldn’t want to study it anyway.
A UK qualification is recognised throughout the world as confirming that the holder has had a first class education. It is the passport to global success that every aspirational young Indian wants.
The UK is a great place to live. Britain has just topped the latest “soft power” list as the country which is most attractive to others. Factors which won us that accolade include the Jubilee and Olympics, pop music, film (James Bond), the number of foreign students, the quality of life in the UK, and even (yes) our cuisine. And don’t forget sport: the UK is home to India’s favourite – cricket.
5. Because it’s got strong ties to home.
There are over 1.5 million people of Indian origin in the UK. Almost every Indian coming to the UK will have friends and family there. And there are more Indian students in the UK than any other nationality except Chinese. So wherever you go in the UK, it feels like coming home.
6. Because it’s global.
The UK is one of the most diverse countries in the world. We have students from every country: 500, 000 of them in the UK at any time. Like their Indian fellow students, they are usually the best and brightest. Indians are great networkers. Network with the best!
7. Because we speak English.
Which means that you can concentrate on the studying not on the language. And that your chances of a successful career are higher. Research shows that people who speak excellent English – which is one of the benefits of studying in the UK – have substantially higher salaries and reach more senior positions than those who don’t.
8. Value for money.
Compared with other countries with first class educational institutions, the UK is not an expensive place to study. It is cheaper than the US in terms of university fees. And UK degrees are normally shorter than those of the US: three years not four. So you pay less for your degree. And you are likely to earn more after it. Research shows that foreign students who have been educated in the UK get significantly higher salaries than those who have been educated at home. So the cost of a UK education is one of the best investments you can make.
9. We offer help.
There are hundreds of scholarship schemes available for prospective Indian students, offered by universities, private foundations, and the British Government itself. We are proud of our prestigious Chevening Scholarships for future leaders, which bring about 60 Indians to the UK every year. And this year we have awarded sixty new ‘Jubilee Scholarships’ for Masters courses in the UK. There are other scholarships too: check the British Council website.
10. Visas are not a problem.
Really. There are various myths about our student visa arrangements. Let me nail them.
The UK no longer wants foreign students. Wrong. We are committed to reducing net migration to the UK, and we have dealt firmly with bogus colleges and fake students. But we have set no limit on the numbers of genuine foreign students who can come to Britain. No limit. Indeed the UK actively wants to continue to attract large numbers of the best and brightest to Britain: it’s good for our education sector, our economy and our place in the world. There’s a global competition for the best and brightest: if you are in that category, we want you in Britain. So if you are a genuine student going to a genuine institution, you will get your visa.
It’s hard to get a visa. Wrong. We make it easy to apply: we have more application centres in India than any of our competitors. And we like to say yes: most Indians who apply for a student visa get one. We issued over 30,000 student visas here in India last year, and 75% of those who applied were successful.
You can no longer work after study in the UK. Wrong again. We know this is important for Indians, many of whom take out a loan to pay for their study in the UK and need to work afterwards to pay it off. So while we have closed down the arrangement under which foreign students could stay in the UK to work in low-paid jobs, we have deliberately retained the ability for Indians and others to work in the UK after study provided they secure a graduate level job. You can stay and work in the UK for at least three years with the possibility of extension for a further three.
So my message is simple: UK education is great, and Indians who decide to study in the UK will love it.
But I would say that, wouldn’t I? So don’t take my word for it. Take instead the word of the International Student Barometer, which is an annual survey of foreign students. What this year’s survey shows is that more than four out of five (81%) of foreign students like university life in the UK; and that satisfaction levels with almost all aspects of studying in the UK, already high, have gone up over the last few years.
So if you are a young Indian thinking about your future, think about studying in Britain. We offer the best for the brightest: the best education in the world for India’s most talented. We hope to see you in the UK. It could be the best decision you ever make.
Follow the High Commissioner on twitter @HCJamesBevan