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     Volume 1 Issue 18 | December 10, 2006 |


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His Excellency Anwar Choudhury talks about education in the UK

His Excellency Anwar Choudhury, Dr. June Rollinson and Mr. Bharat Joshi

There are a lot of students in Bangladesh who nurture the ambition to pursue their education in the United Kingdom (UK). In today's era of globalisation, UK has established its position as a provider of quality education. The British Council Bangladesh has always been there to help out the Bangladeshi students who want to enroll into British universities for higher education. However, there are many agencies emerging in Bangladesh that promise the prospective students admission in various British universities, often even with an assurance of the required visa. Many students have unpleasant experiences regarding some of these agencies. Even the students who are able to deal properly with the application process often feel apprehensive about the visa interview, the final hurdle before one can go to the university of their choice. In an effort to encourage genuine students to apply to universities in the UK, and disperse some of the misinformation regarding how effective these “go-between” agencies can be, the Star Campus team had the opportunity to meet The British High Commissioner to Bangladesh His Excellency Anwar Choudhury, Director of Visa Services, Mr. Bharat Joshi and British Council Director Dr. June Rollinson. The discussion was organised through the initiative of Ms. Syeda Nazneen Ferdousi, Press and Public Affairs Officer, The British High Commission.

In a quick briefing session, His Excellency Mr. Anwar Choudhury stated that UK has always been a center of excellence for higher education. In recent years, universities in the UK have continued their efforts towards offering quality education and have widened the prospects of obtaining a degree from universities in the UK. Recent statistical data shows that 7100 applications were filed last year by Bangladeshi students intending to pursue an UK-based education of which 50% of the applicants were eventually issued the visa. Further, these data also show that the number of applicants from Bangladesh increases every year. His Excellency stressed that the idea is not to discourage students or reject potential applicants without sufficient reason, but rather to encourage them to avail of the diverse cultural and academic opportunities that the UK-experience offers. Nevertheless, immigration abuse by fraudulent applicants must be avoided, and a balance has to be struck. It is very unfortunate that of all the applicants that are rejected, 20% of them face this rejection based solely on grounds of submitting fake documents. At this point, Mr. Bharat Joshi added that students should be honest about their actual intentions and their background. It is not a good idea to try and project an image that the applicant does not live up to.

Talking about the prospects of the UK universities opening extended campuses in Bangladesh, The High Commissioner informed that some such projects are already under way, and soon we can expect students to get the opportunity to pursue education under the tutelage of a British University, while staying in Bangladesh.

We brought into focus the fact that a large number of Bangladeshi students complete their education following the GCE curriculum, and asked whether these students could be exempt from taking the IELTS exam.

The High Commissioner replied that it is one thing to complete a school-level course in English, and a completely different thing to have complete grasp over a language. He further added that to a GCE student, getting a good IELTS score is not very difficult but can add a lot to his/her credentials. We mentioned that a lot of students are more apprehensive about the visa interview than about the rest of the application process, and wanted to know what the visa office looks for in a candidate. Mr. Bharat Joshi, being the Director of Visa Services, answered this question. He stressed that above all else, they want to gauge a student's ability to cope with the demand that an UK standard education entails. In addition, students' being able to fund themselves for the program is also a major consideration. Of course, all of this comes after verifying the authenticity of the papers provided by the applicant.

From the topic of affordability came the issue of scholarships available to Bangladeshi students. We were informed that two popular scholarship schemes are available The Chevening Scholarship and The Commonwealth Scholarship. However, both are limited in number and very competitive. The Chevening Scholarship is targeted towards exceptionally competent students from any discipline, under the age of 35 and wishing to complete post-graduation. The Commonwealth Scholarship is meant for short-term fellowships and has no age bar.

When asked to comment on certain agencies that claim that they can help students with the application procedure, and at times even with getting the visa, Mr. Bharat Joshi strongly emphasized that there is absolutely no way anyone can guarantee getting a visa to the UK, not even the business agencies in Bangladesh. The High Commissioner expressed his surprise as to why students would go to such agencies when the British Council is always there to help them in any way necessary. Mr. Joshi also added that while the application process can be rather intimidating, students should have enough faith in themselves to do the background research, learn the rules and then go about the entire process themselves. This application process is just the first step, and if students cannot deal with it themselves, they really cannot expect to make it through the rigorous curriculum of a British University.

Hammad Ali, His Excellency Anwar Choudhury and Arif Ashraf Nayan

Finally, we asked Dr. June Rollinson about whether there are plans to initiate student exchange programs between the UK and Bangladesh in the near future. Dr. Rollinson said that there are no plans for student exchange programs in the usual sense programs where students attend an institute in the UK for a short time span, usually for about 3-4 months. This is because the cost involved in accommodation and studies is too great for such a short program to be of any real value to the individuals concerned. On the other hand, a full-scale program offers a wide range of prospects and is a much better way of making the most of an UK degree. Nevertheless, starting next year, The British Council does plan on initiating a global exchange program. Under this program, people from the UK and Bangladesh will volunteer to visit each other's country, and work in a diverse number of sectors during their stay in their respective countries. This program is intended to help those involved to understand and appreciate the different ways in which our societies operate, thus providing them with a greater insight into what makes these cultures tick, and how they can work together in an effective manner.

On that note, we concluded our discussion session. It was very informative, and helped to clarify a lot of misconceptions. For any further help, we were told that the British Council was always ready and willing to be of service to students intending to apply to UK. We hope this report has been equally informative for all our readers, and will motivate them to try and take a shot at a degree from UK. We would like to thank His Excellency Anwar Choudhury, Director of Visa Services, Mr. Bharat Joshi and British Council Director Dr. June Rollinson for sharing their thoughts on the very pertinent subject. We also wish to thank Ms. Syeda Nazneen Ferdousi for organizing the session.



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