Mayor of London proposes new visa for Indian students

The Mayor of London Boris Johnson is today proposing new measures that he believes will help the city retain its position as the education capital of the world and arrest the sharp decline in the number of Indian students who come to London to study.

London attracts 100,000 international students every year, more than any other city in the world. These students contribute £3bn to the capital’s economy and help to support 37,000 jobs according to research from the Mayor’s promotional agency London and Partners.


India is the third-largest international student market in London after China and America. However, the number of Indian students studying at London’s higher education institutions has more than halved over the last five years. In 2009/10 there were 9,925 Indian students in the capital, while in 2013/14 there were only 4,790. This comes at a time when the demand for higher education is growing due to India’s economic growth and the expansion of its middle class.


The Mayor is committed to London and the UK attracting and retaining talent from around the world. Today, at City Hall, the Mayor and senior academics from some of the capital’s leading higher education institutions will agree to put forward to Government two policy options on work opportunities following graduation which would be attractive to students from India and other countries. They are:


  • A Commonwealth work visa for up to two years. This would be with India, in the first instance, but could be extended to other Commonwealth countries, if successful. This complements the Mayor’s belief that the UK needs stronger visa relationship with its Commonwealth partners.


  • A work visa for graduates in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) for up to two years. Although not restricted to nationality, this would be attractive to Indian students for whom STEM degrees are popular. It would also help to meet a critical skills shortage in the UK in areas such as life sciences, engineering and technology.


The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson MP said: “London is indisputably the education capital of the world with more top performing universities than any other city globally. However, current restrictions on overseas students are putting off the brightest Indian minds from coming to study in the capital and it is crazy that we should be losing India's top talent and global leaders of the future to countries like Australia and the United States. I hope we can work with London’s universities and Government to address this and make sure the capital remains the leading destination for international students.


The Mayor raised the issue of visas during a trade mission to India in November 2012 and wrote to Theresa May, the Home Secretary and Vince Cable, then Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills urging that new measures should be introduced to better protect genuine students who wish to study in the UK. This included setting up an ‘Educational Exports Commission’, to promote London’s universities abroad and help to secure the future of one of its greatest exports. In response, the Government set up a similar body, called the International Education Council (IEC) to advocate London and the UK as a destination for international students. In July 2013, the government also published its international education strategy which aimed to grow the number of international students by 15 to 20 per cent to 2018.


Gordon Innes, CEO London & Partners, the Mayor's promotional company which runs, is attending today’s City Hall discussion. He said: "London has the greatest concentration of top class universities of any city in the world and we also welcome the highest number of international students.  International students bring a wealth of benefits to the city and, at a time when we are facing increasing competition from many other countries, we should make sure we are doing all we can to encourage young people to study here and experience everything London has to offer."


Professor David Gann, Vice-President of Imperial College London and the Higher Education Representative on the London Enterprise Panel is chairing part of today’s discussion and said: “Indian students contribute immeasurably to the intellectual, cultural and economic vitality of London. When they come to the capital, great things happen – for the UK, India and the world. Almost every day I meet innovative Indian students who are helping solve global challenges and create new opportunities: from antibiotic resistance and climate change to fintech and personalised medicine. We should be clear: London’s world-class universities’ doors are wide open to India’s brightest students.” 


Also attending is Professor David Sadler, Vice Principal (International) of Queen Mary University of London, who said: ““Either of the policy options set out by the Mayor, if adopted, would be a step in the right direction to begin to address the decline in Indian students enrolling at many of London’s universities.  In offering students an opportunity to gain some relevant  work experience in the UK post-graduation, they would help enable us to remain attractive to prospective students and their parents in the face of ever increasing competition for the brightest students globally.” 

Notes to Editors


The UK’s Post Study Work Visa gave non-EU students the right to remain in the UK for two years after graduation. The visa was closed in 2012.


The UK is open to international students and has no restriction on the number of international students who can come and study here providing they have obtained a Tier 4 (General) student visa.


Non-EU higher education students can still undertake paid work while studying in London. Those at publicly funded higher education institutions (HEIs) can work 20 hours a week during term time and they can work full time during the holidays. 


It is possible for Non-EU students to undertake work placements as part of their degree to gain work experience.


There are a number of options for international students to stay and work in the UK after graduation including:


* The main option for non-EU students to work on graduation is if they have applied for and been offered a job by an employer with a Tier 2 sponsor licence. Tier 2 is the main route for registered sponsoring companies to recruit skilled, non-EU workers. The application to move to a Tier 2 visa needs to be made before the Tier 4 student visa expires. The post needs to satisfy Home Office criteria, including a minimum salary threshold.


* Non-EU students can remain in the UK on a Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur visa if they have been identified as developing a world-class innovative idea or have the entrepreneurial skills to remain and develop a business idea. Students on this route need to be endorsed by their university to remain and transfer from a Tier 4 visa to Tier 1 visa.


*Since April 2013, PhD students have been able to stay for 12 months to seek work or set up a business. Applications must be made before the doctorate is finished.


* Students can also obtain a Tier 5 Temporary Worker visa which allows them to work in the UK for up to 12 or 24 months (depending on the scheme they apply for). The Tier 5 (Temporary Worker - Government Authorised Exchange) category, includes internship programmes for non-EU students, and it is possible to switch to this visa from the Tier 4 student visa from within the UK. For all other Tier 5 visa categories, students need to apply from outside the UK.


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London has more top flight universities than any other city in the world. Imperial College London, University College London, King’s College London and the London School of Economics are all judged to be amongst the top 40 universities in the world according to the QS World University Rankings 2015/16 and the Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2015/16.


London’s leading universities are matched by its specialist colleges and schools with international reputations. The London Business School is one of the leading business schools in the world – 2nd in the FT Global MBA Ranking (2015).


London’s arts and music colleges are known throughout the world and attract leading international talent – including the Royal College of Music, Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance and the University of the Arts.


London & Partners report, ‘The Economic Impact of London’s International Students’ can be accessed here



Attendees at today’s conference are:


  • Sir Edward Lister, Mayor of London’s Chief of Staff

  • Gordon Innes, CEO, London & Partners

  • Professor David Gann, Vice-President (Development and Innovation), Imperial College, London and LEP HE Member

  • Professor Norbert Pachler, Pro-Director, University College London Institute of Education

  • Professor David Sadler, Vice Principal (International), Queen Mary University of London

  • Stephen Marshall, University Secretary and Registrar, University of the Arts

  • Kevin Porter, Deputy-Director, Royal College of Music

  • Professor Stanton Newman, Pro Vice-Chancellor (International)/Dean of Health SciencesCity University London (including CASS Business School)

  • Professor Robert Mansell, Deputy Director and Provost, London School of Economics and Political Science

  • Daniel Cremin FRSA, Head of External Relations and Government Relations, King’s College London




For further details please contact Phil Nettleton London & Partners 020 7234 5787 or 07920 759 018