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UK work restrictions turn off Indian students, poll finds

The UK has become a less attractive study destination thanks to its restrictions on work after studying, according to a poll of prospective students in India.

Nine out of ten young people in India looking to study abroad who responded to a survey said that students were put off by the scrapping of the UK’s post-study work visa last year.

More than half of 500 prospective students in India who responded to the IPSOS Mori poll conducted for the Institute for Public Policy Research said they thought being able to work after study was “extremely important”.

The number of Indian students studying at UK universities fell by nearly a quarter last year, according to a new IPPR analysis. Numbers dropped to nearly under 30,000 compared with almost 40,000 the previous year.

Since the work-study visa was scrapped, students from outside the European Union who want to work in the UK after graduating have to make a separate visa application and qualify for employment through the UK’s strict points-based system.

The survey found that 80 per cent of prospective Indian students still see the UK as a favourable destination and 70 per cent were still considering studying in Britain. But a third who had applied found the application process difficult, compared with one in eight who applied to study in Australia.

India sends the highest number of students to study abroad after China, and the UK is the second most popular place to study for these students.

Alice Sachrajda, IPPR research fellow, said: “We cannot continue to rely on the world class reputation of the UK’s universities and colleges alone to attract foreign students. Other English speaking countries such as Australia have an easier application process and more attractive rights to work after completing studies, and we will continue to lose students to our competitors unless we make urgent changes.

“By making it easier for students to work here after they’ve completed their courses, we would be offering an economic incentive to foreign students, who through their skills and hard work will help the UK economy to grow.”

The findings of the survey are included in a new report to be published by the IPPR on Thursday on “why the UK should commit to increasing international student numbers”.