This month, international students studying at Russell Group universities joined forces and asked for a 30% reimbursement for tuition fees that would compensate for the challenges they have faced due to the COVID-19 pandemic. They claim that the pandemic has harmed their academic performance and well-being and they believe that a fee reduction would compensate for that.
There are over 500,000 international students studying at British universities and the number is constantly rising. In 2020, UK universities enjoyed a 9% increase in the number of undergraduate students coming from outside of the country. In the UK, average tuition fees for non-EU/EEA students are £17 500 per year which means that international students have to pay roughly twice as much as British students to obtain a degree from a UK university. Nonetheless, a great number of international students come to the UK every year to experience high-quality education, get a chance to enroll in excellent internships, use fully equipped libraries, make friendships with people from all over the world, join amazing societies and, on top of all of that, experience marvellous student life. Sadly, with the sudden outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, it has all become a distant dream.
Imagine the joy of being accepted at your dream university located halfway across the world. You are ready to accept the high costs of education and life in the UK, the fear of living on your own, far away from your friends and family to get a student experience you have always dreamed of. Then once you land and get to your room, you realize that it is the place, where you will spend the majority of your academic year. You are feeling lonely, bored, and scared of the deadly pandemic. Instead of having lectures in the school building and making friends while interacting with seminar groups, your classes are being delivered on your laptop in your room. The feeling of isolation results in mental health issues and anxiety which harm your academic performance. You cannot use the majority of campus facilities and get proper face-to-face support. On top of that, it is extremely difficult to find a part-time job you were willing to undertake to afford to study in the UK. Entangled in such circumstances, some students decide to fly back home, facing travel restrictions’ issues and still having to pay full accommodation fees. However, the situation is just as bad if you are studying from your home country. You need to face time-difference problems, spend extra money on internet access and change your home into a working space.
Nobody is to be blamed for the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic however, international students agree that the 30% reimbursement for tuition fees would at least partly compensate for the challenges they had to face during the pandemic. Student unions operating in Russell Group universities have joined forces and together written an open letter to the Russell Group University Campaign addressing the issue. “We appreciate and note the work that Universities have been doing to support students, and also understand the financial challenges facing each institution. However, the peculiar situation International students are experiencing remains unaddressed” they say in the letter.
Additionally, they bring up the subject of extremely high tuition fees that non-British students have to pay to attend universities in the UK. “University education should be available for everyone and it should not be so expensive because its purpose is for students to gain knowledge. It shouldn’t be a business and the government should work with universities to fully consider students from different backgrounds, especially in the pandemic, when it is hard for international students to travel to the UK and they are facing financial problems. The university should not treat students as just income providers.” Franks Feng, the international officer at the University of Leeds, told the Gryphon. International students make up a great number of students at British universities. Their voice and concerns need to be heard.
Image Credit: Study International