You report that the chancellor has, once again, told the Indians that “there is no quota, no limits, no restrictions on Indian students applying to British universities” and that “90% of Indian students who apply for a student visa, get a student visa” (Britain is open to Indians, says Hammond, 5 April).
All of that is (nearly) correct so, all must wonder, what is the problem? But it is far from the full story and does not explain why the numbers have shrunk so dramatically. As one hopes government ministers understand – and as Indians clearly do understand – the real reason why such a high proportion obtain visas is that far fewer apply for them in the first place, believing that the rules and restrictions are now so strict and the entitlements (especially to part-time and post-study work) so limited, that far fewer believe they will qualify or that the UK is the right destination for them. Unless those issues are adequately and honestly addressed, it is, sadly, unlikely that the numbers will again rise and contribute, as many believe is so essential, to an expanded relationship with India.
Chief executive, UK Council for International Student Affairs
• Overseas students not only have an enriching time studying at our world-class universities (Treating overseas students as migrants is not just wrong, it defies common sense, Chris Patten, 4 April), but there are enormous long-term benefits to the UK. Analysis by the British Council in 2014 showed that one in seven countries has a leader who studied at a British higher education institution. The goodwill that this builds towards the UK contributes hugely to our “soft power”.
• Chris Patten is spot on. The UK is seeing a massive decline at a time when a large number of German universities are now offering English language international graduate programmes to entice students from the Anglosphere. But it is Australia where the difference is most striking and staggering. The Sydney Morning Herald reported (22 February) that the number of international students in Australia was at a record high – 554,119. That’s 100,000 more than the UK, despite Australia only having 43 universities compared with 130 in the UK.
As a result, international education is now Australia’s third biggest export. And the revenue from international student fees is staggering. In 2016, the universities of Melbourne and Sydney combined made more than A$1bn from international students – A$526m for Melbourne, A$480m for Sydney.
In the Sydney Morning Herald, Phil Honeywood, chief executive of the International Education Association of Australia, pointed to the students who will no longer be coming to the UK as a boon for Australia: “Because of Brexit, European students will no longer be able to study for free in the UK.”
Australia’s education minister Simon Birmingham says he will leave no stone unturned to maximise opportunity for growth. If you said to him you were looking to limit the student numbers coming to study – as the British government is doing – I can guarantee you’d be lucky to leave the room alive.
Newcastle upon Tyne
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