Jo Beall, director of education and society at the British Council, tells that UK is not just welcoming, but enthusiastic in hosting Indian students.
Indian students are concerned about the withdrawal of the Post Study Work (PSW) route. What do you have to say to them?
The first thing we have to say is that we support the government’s concern to only admit genuine students, to attract the best and to go for quality rather than quantity. We are not interested in students to make money out of them. Instead, we are interested in having students in our universities because they want to be in British universities because they contribute to the universities’ research and student experience.
We have had a number of problems related to bogus colleges that we had to tackle. However, having said that, it is a shame that by putting in place very complex visa regulations , we have created the ‘perception’ that the UK is not open to international students. We are categorically working towards reversing that perception towards demonstrating that the UK is open for business, study and in some cases, even for work.
We are asking the government to think about the wider implications for British cultural relations and British economy, while at the same time, strongly supporting the reasons behind the decision and the changes that have been made.
As to the issue of ‘perceptions,’ we are working closely with the British government and trying to address ‘perceptions,’ demonstrating that UK is a welcoming environment – not just welcoming, but enthusiastic in hosting Indian students who are among the brightest and the best.
Why do you think skill education is becoming so important globally?
The global focus on skills is partly to do with the recession and ‘recognition .’ Recognition that we need to provide people with the opportunities they want and to help people meet the aspirations they have. That applies both for employment and entrepreneurship . If you think of our work in Africa, a large population of the urban dwellers makes a living outside of formal employment. So, I think there is a recognition that skills-support is important for people to make a living, to be innovative, creative, and so on. Also, some of the events in the Middle East have demonstrated to the world that this is what the young people are asking for. When we listen to young people in North Africa and Middle East, it becomes clear that what they want are skills for employability, skills for entrepreneurship, and education that is going to give them jobs in the real world.
What is the scope for India and UK to work in the skills area?
There is a huge scope vis-a-vis actual sectors. While the UK has a lot of expertise in the oil and gas sector, at another end of the spectrum, we have a lot to offer in the area of hospitality skills or even livelihood related to tourism. Secondly, we can look at the education system itself for further/technical education and how we can – through a system-to-system approach – work together to enhance quality, look for ways to jointly accredit and jointly deliver courses of study.
The ambitions of the Indian government are to hugely enhance the offering of higher and further/technical education. And to reach those huge numbers, to extend access, I think India needs to draw on all the support it can get. And UK is very willing to work in partnership with India, to support that quest. (Times of India)