Conservative Peer Calls to Double Number of Indian Student in UK to Reduce Dependence on China

© AP Photo / Kirsty WigglesworthU.S. first lady Michelle Obama, centre rear, speaks to children from Elizabeth Garrett Anderson school in London as they visit Christ Church College in Oxford, England, Wednesday, May 25, 2011.
U.S. first lady Michelle Obama, centre rear,  speaks to children from Elizabeth Garrett Anderson school in London as they visit Christ Church College in Oxford, England, Wednesday, May 25, 2011. - Sputnik International, 1920, 09.12.2021
The UK views an FTA with India not only through an economic lens, but also as a way to shift its focus to the Indo-Pacific region in a post-Brexit world. Indian PM Narendra Modi and his UK counterpart Boris Johnson agreed to having an FTA during their bilateral summit in May this year. The formal FTA negotiations are set to begin early next year.
Conservative peer in the United Kingdom’s House of Lords and former universities minister Jo Johnson has urged the Boris Johnson government to aim at doubling the number of Indian students on British university campuses to 139,000 by 2025/25 to “reduce dependencies” on China.

"The UK needs to deploy its knowledge assets – notably its universities and its research base – in a more strategic way with India, by making a comprehensive knowledge partnership’ the centerpiece of a post-Brexit UK-India free trade agreement (FTA),” Johnson, a brother of Prime Minister Boris Johnson, has said in a new research report.

Johnson, a senior fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School and president’s professorial fellow at King’s College London, is also the lead author of a new report "Natural partners: building a comprehensive UK-India knowledge partnership." The new study urges a number of reforms in the UK education sector to increase its competitiveness and reduce reliance on China.
It states that despite growing geopolitical friction between the UK and China over a range of issues, Beijing still sends the greatest number of university students to the United Kingdom.
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More than 120,000 Chinese applicants enrolled at UK university campuses in 2018-19, comprising nearly 35 per cent of the non-EU students, as per official estimates.
The report further underlines that Beijing is “poised to overtake the US as the UK’s most important research partner” having surged from ninth to second place in the space of a decade.
“From a UK standpoint, China is today a far more significant collaborative partner in education and research,” it states.
The study claims that India significantly lags behind China on both counts.
“While Indian student numbers in the UK are rising again today, after years of decline, they still represent less than half of those from China. India is also progressing more slowly up the rankings of the UK’s science partners, moving from 22nd to 16th place over the same period,” notes the study.
In spite of trailing China on educational and research collaborations with the United Kingdom, the new study claims that India’s “demographics and economic potential could enable it to become a knowledge partner for the UK of equivalent importance."
“India is home to the world’s largest youthful population under the age of 25, representing over 600 million people. This “demographic dividend” has the potential to be the country’s main source of economic growth over coming decades, but whether it fulfils that potential depends in large part on raising educational attainment,” notes the report.
The study recommends several measures to facilitate greater educational and research partnership with India, including more research and development (R&D) funding of Indian students in the UK and increased two-way exchange of students.
It also calls for putting India on the UK Home Office’s list of "low-risk countries" under the new FTA.
The UK government classifies incoming student visa applications based on nationalities under different risk categories.
The authors of the new study have labelled it as a “companion” of a February 2021 report titled ‘The China question: managing risks and maximising benefits from partnership in higher education and research’, which urged the UK government and educational institutions to take a “more purposeful and proactive” in diversifying away from its reliance on Beijing in matters concerning education and research.
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