India to play key role in UK’s higher education


Sanam Arora, Founder and Chair of the National Indian Students and Alumni Union UK (NISAU UK), has been appointed as one of the Commissioners of the IHEC, reports Asian Lite News

The UK’s former Universities Minister and Chair of the Cross-Party Universities Group, Rt Hon Chris Skidmore MP has launched a new International Education Commission in the UK to enable the UK’s Higher Education Community to convene and develop a new ‘International Education Strategy’ for the country.

Rt Hon Chris Skidmore MP speaking at the launch of the IHEC

The purpose of International Higher Education Commission (IHEC) is to develop recommendations for a new ‘International Education Strategy 2.0’ in partnership with the higher education community. It is formed of institutional representatives from across the U.K, including the devolved nations. The IHEC will meet in a series of roundtable discussions, the distillation of which will form the basis of the new strategy to be submitted to the UK Government as a sector-wide plan for the future.

Sanam Arora, Founder and Chair of the National Indian Students and Alumni Union UK (NISAU UK), has been appointed as one of the Commissioners of the IHEC, alongside stalwarts of the Higher Education sector in the UK such as two former Universities Ministers, The Rt Hon. Lord Willetts FRS and The Rt Hon. Lord Jo Johnson; university leaders such as James Purnell, who has been a former secretary of state for culture, media and sport as well as for work and pensions and is now President and Vice Chancellor of the University of the Arts London; Professor Shitij Kapur, President and Principal of King’s College London; Professor Shearer West CBE, Vice-Chancellor and President of the University of Nottingham; and Diana Beach, CEO of London Higher, the representative body for London’s universities.

Sanam’s appointment is seen as a major win for international students and for India, which is now the single largest source country for international students in the UK. Previously, Sanam led the NISAU’s multi-year campaign to bring back the post-study work visa to the UK. The visa, known as the “Graduate Route” was implemented under the Rt Hon. Boris Johnson’s premiership in 2019, and allows international students to work in the UK for a period of 2-3 years, after completing their studies. It is widely recognised as having played an instrumental role in the significant increase in the demand for UK’s higher education. The number of Indian students choosing to come to the UK has increased by around 300%, with nearly 120,000 Indians being granted study visas in the last intake.

In advance of the launch, Rt Hon. Chris Skidmore MP said: 

“International students are vital to the social and economic success of the U.K. and ensuring we remain an outwardly focused and globally engaged nation relevant to the world of today. Thankfully, our universities have stepped up to deliver on this vision, yet they need greater support across government to maintain our globally attractive international student offer and engagement with the world. Higher education is rightly regarded as the jewel in the UK’s crown – it opens many doors and is the basis for many opportunities for UK plc and its citizens. Now more than ever before we need a clear vision of what our international education strategy should be.  Three years on since I launched the first strategy, the sector has met the targets it set out and needs a new framework. But with a new strategy needs to come greater recognition that we must have a more granular and sustainable approach to international education – one that does not just treat students as numbers on a spreadsheet but delivers the best possible outcomes for every individual – including, crucially, for domestic UK students. At the same time, with other countries outpacing the U.K. with more attractive post study work VISAs, we need to wake up to the fact that international students are part of the solution, and not the problem, for future U.K. success.  That is why I have decided to establish this International Education Commission to bring the sector together to set out clearly what is needed, and the policies and frameworks that should be promoted if we are to have a chance of sustaining our international student pathways for the future.”

Sanam Arora

Commenting on her appointment as an IHEC Commissioner, Sanam Arora said “I am delighted to have been appointed as a Commissioner and look forward to working with colleagues to develop an international education strategy for the UK that is student-centric, ambitious and world-leading, aligned with the objective of Global Britain becoming the world’s leading knowledge and innovation economy, and ensuring that the requirements and ambitions of international students are placed at the heart of future policymaking. As far as India and the UK are concerned, we are at an extremely pivotal moment and we need to develop a futuristic partnership that focuses on each country’s strengths and requirements, as equal partners. For instance, in the UK, we have serious challenges in finding skilled manpower from hospitality to healthcare.

An enhanced immigration regime, which matches the need for talent, can create opportunities for Indian graduates who have studied in the UK to find meaningful work. We know through NISAU’s own research and experiences with Indian students the majority of Indian students would like to stay in the UK for some years to find meaningful work experiences before eventually returning home. This presents a wonderful opportunity for mutual benefit. The UK’s short to medium-term skills gaps can be plugged by providing a simplified education-to-employment system for Indians who have studied here. Upon their return to India, such highly trained graduates would in turn contribute significantly to their home nation by bringing in global best practices. It is such innovative skill and education-based partnerships that we hope to drive in the India-UK corridor.”

This appointment comes hot off the heels of the hugely successful India UK Achievers Honours, conceptualised and executed by the NISAU UK in partnership with the British Council in India and supported by the UK’s Department for International Trade and the UK’s Higher Education Sector. The Achievers Honours recognised 75 young Achievers and 8 Outstanding Achievers who have studied in the UK, achieving excellence in their field and making meaningful contributions to society. The Honours were announced at a Gala Ceremony held in London, including a reception at the UK Parliament on the eve of India’s Republic Day. Winners included India’s national film award winning actress, Parineeti Chopra; CEO of Serum Institute, Adar Poonawalla; and the youngest member of Indian Parliament, Raghav Chadha.

A few months prior to this, Sanam was awarded the ‘Outstanding Contribution to the Higher Education Industry’ award at the prestigious PIEoneer awards, which celebrate the best of international higher education. At the same event, the NISAU also won the ‘Best Student Support’ award and was runner up for the ‘Association of the Year’. These awards are in recognition of the NISAU’s work in the International Higher Education space, supporting thousands of Indians abroad through the Covid crisis and the war in Ukraine. The NISAU is a volunteer organisation, run by and for Indian students & alumni. 

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