Published: 19th August 2020
Might be the best time for Indian students to come to the UK: James Pitman on why a post-COVID Britain is an attractive study prospect
James Pitman, Study Group's Managing Director of Development for UK and Europe tell us what the UK has in store for students starting their educational journey there
As the COVID-19 pandemic raged on we saw different parts of the world deal with it differently. While US clamped down and decided to send back all foreign students at one point, New Zealand and Australia opened their gates for students very soon after they had they COVID-19 spread under control. The UK has been one of the favourite destinations for Indian students for decades but as the work permit policy comes back, will there be a surge in the number of students? At a time when travel restrictions are relaxing and students contemplate resuming their plans to study abroad, they might still need to consider what would be the best mode for them to choose. James Pitman, Study Group's Managing Director of Development for UK and Europe tell us what the UK has in store for students starting their educational journey there. Excerpts from the conversation:
We have seen a surge in the number of Indian students travelling to the UK in the past few years. There are around 30,000 Indian students pursuing their educational endeavours in the UK at this point. Do you see that change in a post-COVID scenario where online classes might be the new normal at least for a while?
This might be the best time for Indian students to come to UK to study because the government has, last year, announced the return of the policy wherein the students can continue to work here for two years after they finish their studies. When it was removed in 2012, we lost 40 per cent of our Indian students in 12 months. It will again be available for those who are graduating in 2021. But at the same time, the interaction with peers and teachers is an important part of the educational experience. The students might not be able to travel to their campuses in the UK for semesters starting in September and will have to opt for the online modules. Study Group being a pathway provider for students, has programmes starting in January, which articulate into the second year of the university courses — this is proving to be an attractive option for students across the world. The students are facing a lot of challenges and we are aware of that. We are also offering a 21-day refund opportunity for them. We are pleased that the Minister of State of Universities, Michelle Donelan, in an open letter, reached out to all prospective international students outlining why UK is a good destination, how we are dealing with the COVID-19 situation and that the new graduate rule will definitely be in place.
On a spectrum with US on one end with its new regulations and visa rule changes and on the other end is New Zealand and Australia where they have controlled the COVID spread and are now inviting students, where does the UK feature?
We have a history of not having a very positive environment for the international students for the last 10 years under Theressa May when she was the home secretary and laterally as the Prime Minister. The new government wants to open up to more international students and I have never seen such good collaboration of the government and the sector before. We are trying our best to make it a safe environment for the students coming to the UK from various parts of the world. But at the same time, I do not believe we will ever get back to what we called normal before the COVID-19 pandemic broke out. The online learning will be the new normal with a more tech-based study which will be a richer learning environment.
In a future where online courses are the new normal, would students be reluctant to leave their native country and rather go for an online course of the university of their choice?
I think this will definitely be a part of the future. A lot of the students are looking for the holistic experience — mostly for Indian student show want to progress after graduation to work in the UK. The current regulations do not allow you to work in the UK if you do a course online. There will be some students who will fit into the online mode better, some will go for the blended programme but ultimately a lot of students will want to come to the campus which is undoubtedly the richest experience they can have.