We welcome Indian students: Johnson

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India and the United Kingdom have declared 2016 as the Year of Education, Research and Innovation, following Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Britain and his meeting with his counterpart David Cameron in 2015. This would see both countries enhance collaboration, through use of digital technology, to train teachers and students with the aim of developing skills and boosting employment opportunities. 
Jo Johnson, Minister of State for Universities and Science, feels the programmes launched under the education collaboration will go far in cementing the bilateral relationship and achieving the aims set out. He also maintains that the student numbers from India have not declined due to the UK immigration clauses.
Excerpts from an email interview with thestatesman.com:
Q: The number of Indian students in the UK has seen a dip. What steps are you taking to woo them back?
A: The United Kingdom welcomes the brightest and best international students to our world-class universities. UK is home to some of the oldest and most respected universities in the world, and some of the very best.  It hosts four of the world’s top ten universities (Cambridge, UCL, Imperial College London and Oxford) and is home to 30 of the world’s top 200 universities.
We attract more overseas students than any other country, except the US – 493,000 from over 200 countries, including around 21,000 from India.
The UK, in India, hosts the largest Chevening country programme in the world, with a 2.6-million pound budget to fund about 130 fully funded scholarships for future Indian leaders.
The student visa process is straightforward for genuine students, and nearly 88 per cent of student visa applications are successful.  Students need to show that they have a place to study at an education institution on our sponsorship list; have the funds to support themselves; and have the level of English language skills required to follow their course.
Some Key Stats and Facts:
University applications from overseas students are up by 17 per cent since 2010, with applications to our world-leading Russell Group institutions up 39 per cent.
The vast majority of Indian students who apply for a UK visa receive one, and the increase in issue rates reflects the higher quality of applicants we are attracting. In the year ending September 2015, 89 per cent of all student visa applications were issued.
In the year ending September 2015, over 11,600 visas were issued to Indian students, with the vast majority issued to those studying at a UK university.
In the academic year 2014/2015, 18,320 Indian students enrolled at UK higher education institutions.

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Regarding decline in number of Indian students:
 A: We do not accept that the decrease in Indian student numbers is a result of changes to the immigration system.  We have seen increases in the number of study visas granted elsewhere in the world (China (+9 per cent) and Indonesia (+11per cent) in the year ending September 2015, which shows that our immigration system does not hamper growth.
When Modi recently visited the UK, Cameron was clear that the changes we have made to our student migration policy were the right thing to do. However, we still have an excellent overall offer to international students and need to make sure this is communicated.
Q: 2016 was declared as UK-INDIA Year of Education and Research during Prime Minister Modi’s visit to the UK in November.  What are the innovative ways in which the two sides are seeking to collaborate?
A: During the last ten years, the UK-India relationship in education, research and innovation has grown substantially. The relationship took a step further during the Indian Prime Minister’s visit to the UK where the two countries decided to come together to mark 2016 as the UK-India Year of Education, Research and Innovation.  This will highlight the strengths of the bilateral relationship, drive further collaboration, including a range of digital technology-enabled education and training initiatives, so that both countries create a new 21st century framework as partners in education, research and innovation partners, in the global context.
The objectives are:
Highlight the strength of the UK-India bilateral relationship across education, research and innovation.
Drive further the UK-India partnerships and encourage organisations and institutions to collaborate at national regional and state level
To support new initiatives especially in digital innovation- as well to highlight existing bilateral activity.
Q:  The “2016: UK-India Year of Education, Research and Innovation” was launched during your recent India visit. What are the highlights of the programme?
A: New Technology-led initiatives are being developed to launch in 2016 to support the professional development of the next generation of Indian teachers, trainers and faculty.
In schools: A new Continuing Professional Development package for English teachers in India, including developing new Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) courses for India’s three million pre-service and newly qualified teachers and teachers’ educators in India.
In community colleges and polytechnics: A new workforce development programme delivered in partnership with community colleges/polytechnics and UK providers; aimed for 25,000 students in 20 institutions in 2016, using blending learning model, to maximise the use of technology in teaching to increase scale and quality.
In universities: A professional network of 10,000 new generation faculty and support them to improve practice and promote research in digital teaching and learning.
English and Digital for Girls’ Education (EDGE): A digital literacy programme for adolescent girls outside formal education system from marginalised communities. Delivered via self–access learning and managed by trained ‘peer leaders’; the EDGE project will aim to reach across nine states in India.
The Year of Education, Research and Innovation campaign will also include:
Bilateral programmes:
UKIERI: The launch of the third phase of the UK-India Education and Research Initiative (UKIERI) covering areas of the Higher Education and Further Education Leadership development, e-partnerships, skills development and mobility
Newton Bhaba Fund: Programme for science and innovation collaboration
GIAN: Launch of the Global Initiative Academic Network – UK Academics to teach in India
SWAYAM: UK University-led content on India’s new Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) platform
Generation UK-India: Supporting mobility of UK students to India
Connecting classrooms: The third phase of the British Council schools programme
Chevening scholarships: Creation of a new Chevening Financial Services course aimed at mid-career professionals wanting to study in the UK.
Education UK Exhibitions: 60 UK Universities exhibiting in 10 cities across India
Research Councils UK (RCUK): Joint research programmes and university collaborations
Skills: Related activity, including English Language teaching and learning innovation
Q: In what ways can UK and Indian academicians collaborate under the Global Initiative of Academic Networks (GIAN) programme?
A: Over the next year, UK and India intend to deepen their bilateral relationship across education, research and innovation. With this objective, both countries will undertake and support new initiatives. India and UK aim to create a professional network of academicians and work towards promoting research and teaching. India will look forward to more UK academicians coming to Indian institutions to teach courses under the recently launched GIAN. In partnership between UK providers and community colleges and polytechnics of India, blended learning courses will be developed to increase employability, with focus on manufacturing and service sectors, to meet the requirements of “Make in India”.
The approach in research will be inter-disciplinary cutting across various ministries of the Indian Government.
United Kingdom will be the partner country for the “Technology Summit 2016” to be organized jointly by the Department of Science and Technology and the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) on October 24-26, 2016 in New Delhi.
The emphasis from both sides would be on increased mobility of students and faculty. While the ranking framework of Indian institutions will provide a mechanism to UK students to get an idea of quality of Indian institutions, UK side will be looking forward to support more UK students to India under ‘Generation UK India’ programme.
Q: How is the Newton Programme expected to boost science research collaboration between the countries, especially with countries like Germany also wooing bright Indian minds?
A: The UK launched the Newton Fund to promote economic development through science, research and innovation partnerships in 2014. Under this initiative, UK has allocated pound 50 million over five years for jointly funded collaborations with India, with match funding from Indian partners.  Our ambition is to create an equal partnership with equivalent resources from India. This fund will address big societal challenges, like sustainable cities, health, food, energy and water. The three strands of this fund are ‘people’, ‘programme’ and ‘translation’. 
These include PhD exchanges, post-doctoral fellowships; joint collaborations to address important challenges around antimicrobial resistance (AMR), care for the elderly, mental well-being, the effects of atmospheric pollutants on human health, and maternal and child health; Joint Centres on Renewable Energy Research; and business‐academia collaborations and business‐business links between entrepreneurs and SMEs through a joint industrial R&D project focusing on clean tech energy, affordable healthcare and advanced manufacturing.
The two countries note that the Newton-Bhabha Programme is strengthening existing research partnerships and allowing us to build new relationships with policy makers in government, government agencies, research organisations, higher education institutions, companies and enterprises of UK and India.
Read more at http://www.thestatesman.com/news/opinion/-we-welcome-indian-students/124745.html#JRP2xqpV6IuFJsGG.99
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