Pakistani students
Foster said they look forward to welcoming more Pakistani students to their world leading universities. Source: Adrian Dennis/AFP

The UK immigration minister Kevin Foster’s message to Pakistani students is clear: choose the UK as your higher education destination. In a statement released by the British High Commission Islamabad, Foster encouraged students in Pakistan to enrol in UK universities during the annual celebration of International Students’ Day, which fell on Nov. 17, 2020.

Foster said they look forward to welcoming more Pakistani students to their world-leading universities, and that Pakistani students “have always been a huge part of our community.” “Put simply, we want the best and brightest to study in the UK, which is why we have made it easier to apply.” He added that the UK will always value and welcome international students, “and whether now or in the future, we want Pakistani students to choose the UK as the place to fulfill their potential.”

British Deputy High Commissioner Mike Nithavrianakis said last year, over 5,000 Pakistani students were successfully granted a visa – a 20% increase on the previous year. “This is a testament to the strengthening links between the UK and Pakistan.,” he said. The vast majority of visa applications by Pakistani students are also successful — a total of 93% of Pakistani students were granted a student visa.

“But, more than that, each successful visa means another student heading to the UK, to build their career, expand their horizons and find out more about all that the UK has to offer. We hope that this continues, and that many more students from Pakistan follow their compatriots on this journey,” said Nithavrianakis.

Easing the process for Pakistani students to study at UK universities

The UK has introduced several new measures to draw international students to its shores, making it easier for them to live and study in the UK. This includes the UK’s new Student Route which promises to make it more streamlined and convenient for Pakistani students to study in the UK, with benefits such as applying up to six months in advance, and additional opportunities to extend student visas from inside the UK. This new Student route replaces the Tier 4 (General) student visa on Oct. 5, 2020.

In response to COVID-19, the UK was among the first countries to introduce visa flexibility for students, including permitting remote study for the whole 2020-21 academic year and replacing thousands of expired visas free of charge so Pakistani students could still travel.

The UK will also be introducing the Graduate Route next year, which is a new post-study work visa that will allow eligible students two years — or three years for pHd students — to stay back after they graduate to work, or look for work in the UK. According to the UK Home Office, “The new route will be launched in the summer of 2021, meaning that any eligible student who graduates in the summer of 2021 or after will be able to apply for the route. This includes students who have already started their courses.”

The government said the launch of the route demonstrates their support for the education sector and commitment to the International Education Strategy, which plans to increase education exports to 35 billion pounds and the number of international higher education students to 600,000 by 2030.

International students contribute over 6.9 billion pounds in tuition fees to UK universities and contribute over 26 billion pounds to the wider UK economy. According to QS, there are 90 UK universities in the QS World University Rankings 2021, six more than last year. Four of these institutions make it into the global top 10, with a further four in the global top 50.