Students may lose lakhs as UK halts visa operations (Second Lead)

February 2nd, 2010 - 7:02 pm ICT by IANS  

By Alkesh Sharma
Chandigarh/New Delhi, Feb 2 (IANS) Hundreds of Indian students who dreamt of studying in the UK may not be able to do so thanks to a sudden British decision to temporarily stop accepting student visa applications at three centres in north India.

Besides, the fear of students losing lakhs of rupees is looming over their heads as there is no guarantee students would get back their tuition fees which they have already paid in some cases.

“The admissions process is an arrangement only between the student and the college and we cannot intervene. However, we hope that genuine colleges will understand this situation but we cannot play any role in it,” Nigel Casey, British deputy high commissioner, told IANS.

This indefinite suspension, put in force from Monday, was the direct result of a 10-time increase in student visa applications during the period October to December 2009, at three visa application centres of Chandigarh, Jalandhar and New Delhi.

Last year, 13,500 applications were received during this period whereas only 1,800 and 1,200 were received in 2008 and 2007, respectively.

“We will again review the situation by the end of this month. Then depending on our evaluation, we will decide when to resume accepting applications again,” said Casey.

Casey said this suspension was necessary to scrutinize the situation and to save genuine applicants as there were some cases where people were abusing the student visa norms.

“Some unscrupulous agents mislead youth by telling them that they can easily attain PR (permanent residency) through student visas, which is totally wrong,” Casey pointed out.

As per official records, Britain’s visa operation in India is its largest in the world.

“I had to join a college in London in the first week of March. I have the offer letter in my hand and I have already paid the tuition fees. Now it looks next to impossible to get a visa in time in the wake of this suspension,” Hemant Moudgil, a student, told IANS.

Sarda Jain, a Delhi student who had applied for a media and communications course in a London college, said: “Everything was going so smoothly until now. My application was accepted in the college and that too for a course of my choice. However, this decision has come as a rude shock”.

“I have paid my fees and now if I don’t get my visa, I will lose a major chunk of the money. But more important than that I will lose a whole year! I just don’t know what to do,” she added.

Moreover, the British high commission also failed to save the future of many gullible students who learned about the blacklisting of their college (in the UK) after paying the fees or after reaching there.

There is no provision of any kind of transfer to some other college in the same field.

“Indian students should remain doubly cautious from corrupt education consultants and from applying to blacklisted colleges. They should approach only professional people. Moreover, everything is available online and they can easily check the credentials of a college on the internet to avoid further problems,” stated Casey.

He added: “Presently there are nearly 2,000 licensed institutions in the UK and we have a very tight system of evaluation. The UK Border Agency continuously monitors the performance of colleges. In the last few months we had cancelled the affiliations of 100 colleges, whose work was not found up to the mark.”

Manjinder Singh, a Chandigarh-based overseas education consultant, told IANS: “How can they give a visa to those students who have got admission to a blacklisted college? It is not the student’s fault and the UK application centre officials should inform us about the status of the college when they accept applications from us.”

“There are many cases where students had to return to India as the college where they got admission lost affiliation in-between. It is the moral responsibility of the UK government to take care of such students,” he added.

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