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The Finer Points of the UK-India Strategic Deal for Education

The Prime Ministers of India and the UK, Shri Narendra Modi and Boris Johnson, respectively, had a virtual meeting in May to discuss a 10-year plan to strengthen economic and social ties between the two countries.


The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU)  focuses mainly on forging a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership based on the 2030 Roadmap to UK-India Relations policy paper. The paper seeks to usher in “re-energized trade, investment and technological collaboration that improves lives and livelihood in the vision statement.

Key Takeaways:

  • The UK-India Migration and Mobility Partnership focuses on streamlining the student and talent exchange legal process.
  • The “Global Talent” visa targets people in economic and research sectors such as entrepreneurs, skilled workers, researchers, and scientists.
  • The MoU expands the extant Graduate route program to include exchange programs for young professionals and interns.

The Migration and Mobility Partnership

The Migration and Mobility Partnership formalizes the intention of both countries to streamline the student and talent exchange legal process. The two leaders have agreed on many points that would encourage research and development cooperation and facilitate the bilateral mobility of skilled workers and students. This includes establishing a reciprocal recognition of qualifications before 2021 ends to promote more mobility for teachers, researchers, and students.

indian students enrolled uk universities bar graph

The number of students from India coming into the UK pulled up from a steady decline following a series of international student-focused initiatives, including the Graduate route program. (Source: HESA)


One of the biggest challenges for international students is getting a student visa. The MoU addresses this by issuing statements about initiatives to facilitate students’ entry by streamlining pre-consular processes.


The objective is to make it easier for  UK and Indian students to acquire long-term visas that will allow them to stay for as long as reasonably permissible to complete their studies. The MoU states that explicitly to “allow the entry and stay of nationals of the other Participant’s country for the purpose of study…”


Some portions of the statements touch on “permitted work placements and vocational training.” It comes with the proviso that applicants meet legal and eligibility requirements, including “sponsorship by a licensed institution.” 


Specifically, the agreement will make the granting of multiple-entry visas for short stays go more swiftly and expand opportunities for student exchange and education to “enhance economic, cultural and scientific relations.”


The purpose of this is to make it easier for people in specific economic and research sectors to collaborate. The visa accommodation targets:


  • Business people
  • Start-up entrepreneurs
  • Skilled workers in the cultural sector
  • Academics
  • Scientists
  • Researchers
  • Specialists in their field

The MoU refers to an already existing Global Talent visa route. It aligns admirably with the 2030 Roadmap mission to “[e]nhance exchange of ideas on the India-UK partnership by organising networks of leading think tanks, universities and research organisations”  but takes it further.


The Global Talent visa is open to leaders (or potential leaders) in academia, research, arts and culture, and digital technology and provides a pathway for collaboration. The MoU reinforces the commitment of both the UK and India to make it easier for eligible applicants to acquire a visa or residence permit.

Graduate route

The MoU also lays out plans to ensure that Indian graduates of UK HEIs will continue to have access to the labor market. Presumably, this would be an expansion of the graduate route, a points-based immigration system. 


Through this route, international students finishing undergraduate and master’s programs or doctorate programs from UK universities can apply to work in the UK for up to two years or three years, respectively. Applications start on July 1, 2021.


The MoU extends the terms of the graduate route, proposing that after the two- or three-year period, those already employed or with the prospect of employment might be allowed to stay in the UK, provided they are eligible under UK Immigration Rules.

Young Professional Scheme

However, the MoU does not limit opportunities to international students coming to the UK or India. Paragraph 5 of the MoU proposes a Young Professional Scheme designed to create career opportunities for 18- to 30-year-olds with a qualifying degree or diploma. 


Eligible young professionals may participate in a work exchange program for up to two years in the scheme. The purpose is to help them “improve their career prospects through the experience of salaried workers in a company registered following the laws and regulations of the other Participant’s country.”


The agreement will also help UK students wishing to go to India or vice versa to participate in work placement or internships by making arrangements with HEIs, public organizations, and private enterprises. Such arrangements may not exceed 12 months.



The agreement between India and the UK is extensive and ambitious, but it is hardly coming out of nowhere. The two countries have a long history together and value many of the same things. The mutual commitment to forging closer educational ties is just one step to strengthening an already robust relationship. (SUNEETHA QURESHI)

#PartnerForLife #InternationalEducation #InternationalStudents #MSM #GlobalEducationForAll

MSM VP Global Suneetha Qureshi

MSM President-Global Marketing Office (GMO)

Suneetha has more than 10 years of experience in the international education sector. As president of MSM GMO, she fortifies its business development outreach globally, particularly in the face of MSM’s foray in edtech-based recruitment via MSM Unify. She preserves the premium, value-adding services provided to each GMO partner institution, including dedicated teams on the ground, agent management, lead generation and inquiry management, application pre-screening, and student and parent support through pioneering pre-departure briefing sessions.


She has an impeccable track record of successfully launching the representative offices in Asia and Africa of many North American and European higher education institutions. Her key strengths include hiring, training, and developing teams as evidenced by the successful results of the dedicated in-country college and university client teams.


Suneetha also has taken the lead in developing several initiatives at MSM, including building robust standard operating procedures, the Rise ‘n Shine team engagement platform, and the organization’s data analytics and audit segments.


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