Understanding How to Recruit Indian Students by GB Mag’s Wahida Ashiq

By UK India Business Council (UKIBC)

India is an exciting market for the UK higher education sector. It not only has the world’s largest youth population and a middle class that is growing at a faster rate than China, but the political cooperation between the two countries bodes well for the sector to exponentially grow the number of Indian students that choose to study in the UK.

We have already seen the intake of Indian students double to 55,465 in the last academic year (2019/20) due to the introduction of post study visa – which is an indication of good things to come.

However, we cannot rely on this one driver, and it is important to understand other motivators of why Indians look to the UK as a study destination.

Residency poststudies

One of the biggest drivers for Indian students is the potential to secure permanent residency in the UK via the post-study work visa route. When the visa was revoked in 2011, there was a disastrous fall in Indian students enrolled at UK universities, but when the visa was reintroduced, these numbers quickly bounced back. The importance of residency post studies can be seen in global trends too with countries that have a strong post study residency route, such as Canada, recruiting large numbers of Indian students.

Ability to work and study

The need to work to fund their degree and living costs whilst studying is a reality for a large percentage of Indian students. The UK Student Visa is appealing in this regard as it allows most students to work 20 hours in term time and an unlimited number of hours outside of the academic term, both on and off campus. For Indian students wishing to find part-time work, the UK student visa compares far better than the limitations that America, Australia, and Canada pose on international students and the additional paperwork that needs to be completed in those respective regions.

Securing a better job in their home country

The unemployment rate for graduates in India is eye high and many families see a British degree as an advantage when navigating the difficult job market. A degree from a British institution can be attractive to local and multinationals companies because it shows that the degree holder has qualities that differentiate them from others, such as being multilingual and being able to understand the business culture of another country.

However, given the sheer number of graduates in India, having a British degree is one small part of the jigsaw because one of the main things that HR managers look for is relevant work experience in the area that the student holds a degree.

Attending a reputable university

Getting a place at a high-ranking university and securing a place on a popular course is difficult in India, given the size of the population and an under-developed HE sector. This means that many ambitious students are forced to study abroad. However, these students may not necessarily look at the global rankings but will look to see whether the university has a credible offering for the course they want to take, and whether it will be of value in India as many multinationals and national brands have a pre-determined list of foreign universities and courses that they recognise as credible.

Cultural and Family Connections

The UK and India has a shared history that goes back 200 years and over one million Brits identify as Indian, so it isn’t surprising that Indian students often have family connections that motivate them to study in the UK. Not only that, but many famous Indians were educated in the UK including Mahatma Gandhi, the former Prime Minster, Dr Manmohan Singh, and Lord Bilimoria – the founder of Cobra beer.

This along with Bollywood’s fascination with the UK, albeit a romanticise and cliched version, makes it a desirable destination for Indian students.


The fact that the UK is multicultural and is home to over a million Indians is a huge selling point for Indian students as they know they will be able to easily find an Indian community in the UK which enables them access to authentic Indian food, as well as places of worship and people that speak their mother tongue.

Cost of Studies & Financial Aid

The UK is seen as an expensive place to live and recent research by Youth Sight, which canvassed 500 students worldwide, reported that 69% of students identified high fees and living costs as something that puts them off from studying in the UK.

However, comparatively the UK is a cheaper destination than the USA and even Canada, given that it only takes three years to complete an undergraduate degree in the UK in comparison to the four years spent on an undergraduate degree in North America. Even postgraduate master’s degrees can take two years to complete in USA and Canada.

Good ongoing care

The ongoing care of international students has come under the telescope over the last few years. Students and parents want to be reassured that universities are focused on not only providing an excellent learning environment for their students but that they have the bandwidth to support them and their mental health and wellbeing.

National responses to Covid also continue to be a barometer for international students, especially given that the UK, Australia, America and Canada have had such varied responses to supporting international students during Covid. Ultimately, the UK’s pandemic response is a factor that will help recruit Indian students, as the UK has been seen to have dealt with the pandemic better than other study destinations and have implemented policies that have favoured international students. One example includes how UK universities have provided equal eligibility for home and international students to access hardship funds.

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