Cameron in India … again
There were initial signs of success after the 2010 visit. There have also been some worrying bits of slippage as trade more recently fell back and the number of Indian students coming from India to British universities slumped.
One university represented amongst the 100 mainly business folk travelling with the PM said it had lost £2m in one year in fees thanks to falling student numbers from India. Universities blame the student visa clampdown and the tone of the immigration debate in the UK. David Cameron told the universities in a briefing on Monday that it was “all sorted,” and his message here is that students can come if they have a place and they can stay after university if they have a “graduate level” (ie well paid) job. But universities say they get four months to find the “graduate level” job and they want more time and the chance to do less well paid work or work experience.
David Cameron hasn’t announced any changes on the student visa front but he’s said he’ll produce a fast-track 24hour visa for business people. He implied in a Q&A session at Unilever Mumbai just after landing that he wanted reciprocal concessions from India. And that, maybe, is where some think he gets the tone wrong. Other countries don’t put up barriers to Indian business people and then ask for a quid pro quo when they reduce them, they just welcome them a little more open-armed in the first place.
The universities’ representatives travelling with the PM say he’ll have to do more to counter-act the negative publicity about the UK immigration debate but that seems to be getting second wind as the government ponders all sorts of restrictions to stop Romanians and Bulgarians in particular getting benefits or NHS access without having worked in the UK.