The sun rose on January 1st in the year 2020, marking a turn of the decade. The 21st Century had now stepped into the 2020s, instilling people with a little bit of hope for the months to comes.
By the time the month of March arrived, the majority of the world was now facing an unparalleled health crisis and global emergency. The COVID-19 pandemic made it imperative for governments to take drastic measure to safeguard their people’s health and wellbeing.
Along with many other countries around the world, the United Kingdom imposed lockdowns and released orders for remote work, school closures, online learning, and social distancing guidelines.
Travel bans, both within the UK and to other (EU and non-EU) countries left many stranded. Concerns for those visiting the UK for work, education or travel purposes had concerns regarding overstaying their visas as flights and borders in the UK and other countries closed temporarily.
Among other overseas people in the UK, international students currently enrolled and seeking admission in UK universities feared the repercussions of the pandemic. As universities switched to online learning and campuses closed down to minimise the spread of the virus, international students with visas approaching expiry were figuring how to extend their stay or go back home.
It was not only international students who were worried about accommodations, studies, and their visas. On the flip side, UK universities were concerned about enrolments for the coming academic year as fall applications had yet to be assessed in 2020.
In fact, early predictions, based on general assumptions, showed that international enrolment numbers would decline during and after the pandemic. With uncertainty regarding travel bans, virus transmission and COVID-19 vaccines, universities in the UK expected fewer international students.
However, the situation, in reality, is far from these predictions.
According to a publication by the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS), UK universities are set to get a record number of international enrolments – despite the ongoing global pandemic.
To be more specific, universities in the UK experience a 9% increase in non-EU international student enrolments in 2020. This fact laid to rest to the UK universities’ concerns regarding falling international student numbers and the financial loss that comes with it.
Even though the numbers for international enrolments for the year 2021 are yet to be recorded and the pandemic continuing, international students are continuing to pursue higher education in the UK.
While there are various reasons for international students choosing UK universities, today we’ll be looking at the changes made during the COVID-19 pandemic and how they’re swaying applicant decisions to study in the UK.
International students can now apply for Student visa early
Under previous regulations, international students who had been admitted to a HEI(Higher education institute) sponsor university had to apply for their general UK student visa six months before their courses commenced.
This left little room for international students to finalise their arrangements while still worrying about whether they’ll be able to make their way to the UK or not.
During the pandemic, this regulation was revised to accommodate travelling restrictions and necessary quarantining. Now, international university applicants in the UK can apply for their Student visa six months before the degree begins.
Also, the UKVI issues the entry clearance permission for three months means they can come to the UK in three months before and also the University no longer putting the restriction to the students to come to the UK before the course commence.
This will allow them to arrive in the UK earlier and go through self-quarantine before classes start.
Students can start learning online
There is an ongoing debate regarding how international students will be missing out on the UK university experience due to the pandemic as classes are taking place online for the most part. Both academic and social aspects of university life living on campus and near college towns take away some of the charms of studying abroad.
While that is true on some levels, it provides international students to begin learning online without having to travel to the UK. As per Boris Johnson’s latest address regarding school closures, academic institutes are likely to continue online for now.
Whenever on-campus classes commence, universities will likely call students back on a staggered basis. Students will be called back in small groups once the vaccines are rolled out properly across the UK. This means that courses will be covered using a hybrid model and students won’t be forced to attend classes in person.
International students will be able to start attending classes online instead of missing out. They will be receiving the same quality of education UK universities are touted for and get an accredited degree.
Reintroduction of the Post-Study Work Visa(Dependent can work full time throughout the leave to remain in the UK)
International students that are currently attending classes remotely will be able to apply for PWS visas if their degrees are not finishing this academic year.
The Home Office announced that international students, who will be arriving in the UK by April 2021 and completing the last semester there, are also eligible for the New Graduate Route.
This programme will be officially launched in the summer of 2021, allowing students graduating from Tier 4 sponsor university to stay in the UK for two years. The purpose is to allow graduates more time to look for a job at any skill level under the implications of the COVID pandemic. Students completing their PhD programmes will be allowed to stay in the UK for 3 years.
If you are studying in the master’s program and you intend to bring your dependent to the UK, your spouse can work full time during the course and during PSW period.
Housing and other coverage for international students
The UK government has sought to provide as much assistance and support for its the UK and international student population. UK universities are supposed to cover housing, food and bills for students with COVID-19 symptoms living in university and college residence or HMOs (Houses in Multiple Occupation).
Students are supposed to inform their halls managers and landlords whether they are symptomatic themselves or living with someone showing them. In tandem with the university and the Local Health Protection Team will assess the risk and give their decision regarding self-isolation and quarantining.
The university will cover the costs for the student while they are in self-isolation while making sure they receive medicine and food as needed.
Before the government announced the policy change, landlords in the UK evicted tenants with expired visas, even during the pandemic.
However, international students don’t have to worry about being stranded as the non-eviction policy in institutions prevents students from having to leave despite their contracts being up.
Free Vaccine Access
In December of 2020, the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine was tested and rolled out in the UK. In a letter, Michelle Donelan confirmed that international students in UK universities will be able to access it as they can access healthcare. This means that older international students and those with underlying health problems will be getting the vaccine first.
International students, both prospective and currently enrolled in a UK university, worried about the turn of events and the state of their academic endeavours can have some sense of comfort.
Despite the pandemic, UK universities and government are both putting in efforts to ensure success for international students. Aspiring students can continue making plans to pursue an education in the UK. Contact us in case you need further assistance.