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Cameron takes university leaders to India on HE export mission

Seven higher education initiatives, a series of business deals, and a new visa service for Indian visitors to the UK have been announced as part of a higher education export delegation to India, led by prime minister David Cameron.

In a speech at Unilever’s offices in Mumbai on 18 February, Cameron stressed that the partnership between India and the UK goes beyond business.

However, the audience questioned him on Coalition immigration policies and the fact that Indian students studying in the UK are no longer automatically able to work after completing their courses as was previously the case.

Cameron responded: “I’ve challenged my government and I’ve challenged our team to say let’s look at all the things we can do to strengthen the relationship by getting rid of barriers between us.”

He emphasised that there is no limit on the number of Indian students that can study in UK universities, and that they can stay in the UK once they have finished if they are able to get a graduate-level job.

In a statement, Joanna Newman, director of the UK Higher Education International Unit, commented “Many UK universities and higher education institutions have seen a drop in the number of Indian student enrolments.”

“We are therefore delighted by the prime minister’s positive comments reinforcing the post-study work opportunities available for those students who want to study in the UK.”

It was also announced on 18 February that frequent travellers from India are to benefit from a new “super priority” visa service.

The one-day service will process visas for Tier 2 applicants and regular or trusted business visitors from India.

The Home Office said that the service, which will begin in March, has been set up in response to feedback from Indian businesses.

Immigration minister Mark Harper said the service is intended to “provide our valued customers from India with the choices to fit their particular circumstances and needs.”

Cameron is accompanied on his visit to India by the UK Higher Education International Unit, the chief executive officers of the British Library and the British Council, and vice-chancellors from the universities of Cambridge, Cardiff, Exeter, and Warwick, the London School of Economics and Political Science, and the Open University.

Announced on 19 February, Cambridge university is to collaborate with India in fuel cell technology research and in establishing a centre for chemical biology and therapeutics.

Cardiff is to share best practice in optometry teaching with the University of Hyderabad and the LV Prashad Eye Institute in Hyderabad.

The delegation also includes more than 100 businesses.

In a speech at a business event in Mumbai, Cameron announced that the UK will be “rewriting our rules on the high-level technology that we’re prepared to share with our Indian partners to make it one of the closest partnerships we have anywhere in the world.”

UK Trade and Investment yesterday announced that the government is backing the creation of a pan-Indian network of British business centres by 2017 with £8 million.

These centres will offer support to British businesses in India.

The government has also identified eight potential sectors for collaboration between India and British businesses.

“As India grows, it needs a partner that can support its ambition—in infrastructure, in energy, in healthcare and more,” commented Cameron.