It is a matter of a few more months, possibly laced with more resignations and political drama, before UK and EU finalize their divorce, and therefore, set in motion a domino effect that will alter various sectors of the democracy substantially. The numerous sectors currently functioning in the UK, which are also drafted to undergo major changes over the period of the next few post-Brexit years, include the academic sector. Even though the majority of the impending transitions pertaining to Brexit are clouded with uncertainty, the policies planned for the academic sector are claimed to be backed with stern plans and rational projections. Over the period up till their intended fruition, these policy changes – bi-products of Brexit if one may – are set to benefit the non-EU overseas students, who, until now, were reluctant to choose the UK for educational purposes, but are now finding their interests resurrected – especially the Indian students.
To say the least, these changes could not have come at a better point in time, for when it comes to education – specifically college education – over the last decade, UK has undeniably lost its charm and subsequently the interest of the innumerable overseas students, who once thought of it as one of the apex educational destinations worldwide. This decline has been undoubtedly alarming and can be attributed to different factors. Indian students once preferred to pursue their education in the UK until the introduction of the harsh immigration laws that were enforced back in 2011. These laws make it difficult for students to gain admission into the many prestigious universities, even if they want to. And therefore, other countries become more viable for students and the UK has fallen down the ranks. The withdrawal of the post-study work visa, which is not only provided but also very graciously so in other countries, further adds to the reluctance of the students. The confluence of these factors has inevitably harmed the credibility and reputation of the region which was once known for its prowess in Business and Engineering education. According to a popular report by the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA), the number of Indian students enrolled in the UK declined from a figure of 39,000 in 2010-2011 to a mere figure of just over 16,000 in 2016-2017. Brexit, however, promises to be the harbinger of change, or at least a major portion of the population is counting on it to be so. Ever since the referendum in 2016, there has been some notable traction, domestically as well as internationally. Between the academic calendar of 2016-17 and 2017-18, the number of Indian students applying to the UK has risen drastically by up to 3000. Moreover, a staggering 19,000 sponsored study visas have been granted to Indians in the year 2018. The finalization of the entire Brexit process may seem plagued with indecision and other political factors, but it has not failed to entice the interests of the people globally.
The dissolution of the European Union partnership serves as a metaphorical reset button for the lawmakers and bureaucrats of the United Kingdom, and they claim to have intentions of laying new foundations and restructure the different variants of the democracy. The policies pertaining to education aim to increase the student influx from 400,000 to 600,000 by 2030, and to attain these elaborate figures, several guidelines are awaiting significant revision. The re-introduction of the post-study work visa will play a pivotal role when the policies undergo the parliamentary ratification process in 2021. The revised agenda will allow a 6 months period to the Graduate and Postgraduate, while Ph.D. students will be given a period of 12 months after they finish their respective courses. This highly probable revision is also coupled with a plan to reduce the tuition fees for students. The annual cap on immigrant workers is also set to be removed, which will pique the interests of students with long term plans to study and seek employment in the country.
The Brexit deal, after having gone through a fair share of controversy and facing international scrutiny, is expected to be ratified by the currently given deadline of 31st October 2019. Indian students can, therefore, begin to take a close look at the situation and keep track of, what undeniably is, the most contentious decisions taken by democracy in the past couple of decades.