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Focus on dilemma of Pakistani students in UK

By Murtaza Ali Shah
LONDON: A crucial conference here today (Friday) will highlight the daunting problems Pakistani students face in relation to obtaining entry clearance and new Points Based System (PBS) for studies in the United Kingdom universities.

Thousands of Pakistani students aspiring further education in various disciplines apply every year to the UK educational institutions, considered one of the best in the world, but various factors have combined to frustrate their ambitions. Post 9/11 security measures, Pakistan’s political instability, declining security situation, linkage of Pakistani nationals to terror related outrages worldwide including 7/7 bombings in the capital here, Britain’s stringent immigration system and further tightening up of student visa regulations have caused grave concern to career conscious and qualified Pakistani students and education consultancy firms alike.

Syed Abidi, a senior Education Advisor and CEO of Falcon Education and Consultancy Services, one of the largest Education Consultancy providing free services for UK in Pakistan, is heading the conference here on Friday which will be attended by all major Pakistani consultancy firms, delegates from the UK universities, educational experts, and government representatives.

Talking to The News, Syed Abidi, who is also a founder member of the Pakistan National Education Consultants Association (PNECA), an umbrella organization of consultants and advisors working together to solve the problems of Pakistani students, revealed that the first ever advisors conference in London tomorrow will deal with problems associated with scholarships, high rate of visa refusals and will address the concerns of UK universities in terms of Pakistani students.

Abidi expects that more than 85 delegates from 75 top institutions of UK are expected to participate in this conference and Pakistani delegations have already arrived.The key issues, said Abidi, for discussions at the conference will be the new visa system called the PBS and how it will affect the Pakistani students, visa system in the light of Labour government’s Initiatives 1&2 which has an agenda to increase international students and explore research possibilities, and other issues relating to Pakistani students.

Abidi hopes this conference of high importance will endeavor to find a way forward in helping all the stakeholders in the wake of the current security conditions, especially the restriction on universities delegated to travel to Pakistan.

The tier-4 PBS awards points to the migrant students and requires the UK institutions to score a total of 40 points (out of 100) across the different criteria before securing a confirmation of acceptance for studies. The UK institutions will be required to prove that the aspiring student is capable of doing and intends to do the course at the appropriate level. The student or his/her sponsor most have £800 per month, plus the course fees, for students on courses of less than 12 months and £9,600 to cover the first year, plus the course fees, for students on courses of more than 12 months.

British consulates in Pakistan were shut down many times during last year after security threats but despite the extreme and adverse circumstances, more than 7,664 students succeeded to reach united kingdom until September 2008 to study in the areas of accounting, fine arts, finance, management studies, law, telecommunication, engineering, computer science and media studies.

Dozens of students come every year under Higher Education Commission programme and Faculty Development Programme for doctorate.Syed Abidi said that nearly 700 visa applications have been held up, succumbing to the new visa system and the relocation of British Visa processing unit to Dubai. He said the British Council, which was the major source for placing such students, has now shifted the responsibilities to advisors and consultants representing British Universities in Pakistan.

“Very few of these consultants are honest & fair in their dealings and have legitimate contracts to represent UK universities,” he said. Almost all major UK universities hold exhibitions in major Pakistani cities every year to recruit Pakistani students. Pakistan is seen as a lucrative destination for UK universities currently struggling with fundings and each Pakistani student pays nearly 7,000 GBP per annum.

Figures compiled by Pakistani education consultancy firms, and not disputed by British institutions, show that an average student spends between 15,000 – 20,000 GBP for a one year course including tuition, lodging, pleasure & boarding expenses.

Before the 9/11 attacks, American universities were preferred by Pakistani students but the stern crackdown on Pakistani nationals following the terror attacks have made Britain a favorite for Pakistani students. UK universities insist they prefer Pakistani students because they are of very high academic and intellectual caliber and their fluency in English language is very helpful.

But students and educational institutions here complain that the PBS system, to be enforced soon, will create many difficulties for them. In the wake of serious crackdown on mushroom bogus colleges, many students feel stranded.

Pakistanis owned many of these colleges and they have been turned out of business by the new government requirements.Many students paid hefty fees to such colleges, before the government crackdown and unaware of their true nature, for visa extensions that were approved but following the closure of these colleges, students have been held on return from Pakistan while traveling on genuine visas.

Source: The News, 30-Jan-09


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