Indian students important for UK universities

Thursday 13th August 2020 06:02 EDT

One of the central aspects of the UK-India relationship, despite a complex history, has been the hundreds of thousands of Indian students choosing to study in the UK across centuries. They form a key part of the ‘living bridge’ that continues to quietly shape the future of our two great nations. Despite the populist anti- immigration policy having temporarily dampened the relationship over the last decade, we see renewed vigour.

Even throughout the rough patch when India students choosing to study in the UK fell by half, a whopping 270,000 Indian students chose British universities in the last decade. The net economic impact was estimated at £25.65 billion [2015-16 prices]. Put otherwise, the relationship is mutually rewarding. Subsequently, we felt that Indian students studying in the UK needed to be recognised as a community with due consumer rights and their welfare assuming importance in Higher Education policy making in the UK. Among other things, this was a key driver for the formation of the National Indian Students and Alumni Union UK, which in its short history of 8 years emerged as an example for how diasporic youth can positively come together, outside India.


“I am so thankful to NISAU for handholding me and the entire Indian student community in UK during what was
the most horrifying and terrible experience for us all...trapped thousands of miles away from home in our little
rooms and unable to go back home - if it weren’t for NISAU I would have starved and suffered depression. Thank

- A stranded student in the UK during the lockdown

As members of the founding team of NISAU, the feeling that we have been able to selflessly serve our community through a vision we have painstakingly worked on for the past 8 years has been extremely rewarding. We set up a dedicated COVID response team of more than 25 volunteers as early as March 18 and started working in tandem with various stakeholders such as the Indian and British Governments, Universities-UK and charities such as Seva Trust to provide a 360 model of support for Indians stranded in the UK. So far, our team has supported thousands of Indians with help ranging from food, accommodation, mental health support and with the Vande Bharat Mission - where we closely worked with the High Commission of India. We also launched a virtual community - ‘Home Away From Home’ that delivered various sessions including skill- development, time-management during lockdown, personal-branding and even sessions with top comics like Rohan Joshi to help students de-stress.

A bold move and the road ahead

In the wake of Brexit and the implications of the COVID-19 pandemic on the economy and the nation’s aspirations, the UK is at an inflection point vis-a-vis achieving its development objectives. The Higher Education sector accounts for £20 billion worth exports and Indian students are the second largest consumers. Britain would do well to develop a targeted plan of action for Indian students that puts their needs and requirements at the heart of its policymaking. In fine, it is an opportune moment to breathe a fresh lease of life into Higher Education.

Sanam Arora is the Founder and Chairwoman of the National Indian Students and Alumni Union UK (NISAU). She
is a strategy consultant specialising in Investment Management and Higher Education. She tweets
Vignesh Karthik KR is the Head of Thought Leadership at NISAU, and a doctoral researcher at King’s College
London. He tweets @krvtweets.

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