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Students from India are “always welcome” in his country, British Minister Pat McFadden said on Tuesday though Britain has stopped accepting student visa applications at its three centres in northern India.

“Students from India are always welcome in the UK. In fact, the UK universities are always very keen to get Indian students who are very talented. Presently, nearly 50,000 Indian students are studying in the UK,” said McFadden, business, innovation and skills minister, while talking to reporters here.

He added, “We had to suspend our operations of processing student visa applications due to a huge surge in the number of applications for the lower level course. However, we have decided to resume the operations for the higher level courses, including university and undergraduate degree courses, from next month.”

The UK Border Agency had temporarily stopped accepting student visa application from February 1, 2010, at its three centres in north India for an indefinite period, after an unprecedented increase in the number of applications.

There was a ten-fold increase in the student visa applications during the period October-December, 2009, at three visa application centres of Chandigarh, Jalandhar and New Delhi.

Last year, they received 13,500 applications during the period, compared to 1,800 received in 2008 and 1,200 in 2007.

“We certainly want to continue our education ties with India but at the same time we want to protect the rights of genuine students. We want to make sure that we are following a proper procedure after the scrutiny,” stated McFadden.

Although Britain has announced it will resume the processing of student visa applications for higher-level courses from March 1, students who had applied for lower-level courses are fearing they will lose their money.

On this issue, McFadden said, “In any such case, we have a provision where a student can apply for fees refund in 15 days, so that they don’t lose their money.”

McFadden was here on Tuesday to attend a panel discussion on UK-India partnerships in education. But he could not attend it.

Talking about his visit, he said, “The British Council is already working with various schools and institutes here and we want to strengthen these ties. The focus of my visit is on exploring science and education opportunities.”

“I will also go to visit the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Ropar, as IITs are known for their high quality education throughout the world.”

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