UK's strict norms on education visas irk Scotland

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Cracks are beginning to show in the once United Kingdom. Scotland, which has its own Parliament, football and rugby teams and resolutely refuses to call its whiskey British, is itching under the yoke of English hegemony, it seems.

The latest irritant is the stringent restrictions on UK education visas – restrictions which Scotland feels are preventing it from tapping the lucrative Indian education market effectively.

The Scottish Education Secretary, Mr Michael Russell, told Business Line that he had asked the UK Government to revisit the immigration rules as they apply to Scotland.

“Scottish Universities have made it clear that the changes the UK Government has made to the immigration rules could have a negative impact on international students. I am part of a Government that believes in independence for Scotland, which would mean we could set immigration policies that work in Scotland's favour,” Mr Russell said.

That may mean good news for Indian students planning to study in the UK, who might find entry to Scottish universities easier than the English ones.

At the moment there are about 4,000 Indian students in various colleges and universities in Scotland.  England, Scotland and Wales together with the province of Northern Ireland form the United Kingdom.

Since early this year, the British Government tightened the visa regime for students, following problems in the UK which led to large scale rioting and loss of property.   Indian students are among those hit the hardest because of these restrictions on immigration to the UK.

Many Indian professionals in sectors such as health care, IT, and engineering went to the UK under the now-defunct Tier 1 (general) visa. However, this visa was replaced by the Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) visa, which is almost impossible to qualify for and is capped at 1,000 per year.

Indian students may benefit

According to Mr Russell these changes were brought in as a reaction to problems in other parts of the UK, particularly the South East of England but were having a negative impact on those wanting to study in Scotland.

Any changes in visa norms by Scotland will benefit Indian students, particularly those taking up studies in IT and nursing. “Probably studying in Scotland will provide greater practical knowledge for Indian students as Scotland is generous in providing hands on work experience,” said Mr Ashish Sachde, who works with the Institute of Foreign Studies, an education consulting firm.

Students aspiring for an MBA or Masters degree in Finance or Business could also consider Scotland if the visa norms in the United Kingdom are not liberalised. 

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