An early analysis of the first few weeks of the new academic term has found that many students from India have managed to travel to the UK despite Covid-19 restrictions to take up their courses and are trying to work with the blended learning approach that combines online and in-person teaching.
Universities UK, which represents 139 universities across Britain, said the latest data and insights from universities indicate that a higher number of international students have been placed at UK universities than was initially expected. As the 2020-21 autumn term got underway this month, they collated reports of universities putting in place a range of dedicated support measures for students flying in from overseas, including India.
Rohan, an Indian student who returned to the campus recently to continue his course at Birmingham City University, said: “My journey to the UK was extremely smooth. I had no trouble at all getting through my CAS [college admissions service], visa application process and accommodation booking.
“I felt safe throughout my journey to the UK, with social distancing guidelines being followed, and the immigration process was quick and straightforward upon arrival in London.”
The National Indian Students and Alumni Union UK (NISAU-UK) said it is in the process of conducting a wide-ranging review into the experiences of Indian students and found that close to 40 per cent of students are satisfied with the blended learning approach. A near equal number of students, however, seem unsatisfied and hope that the teaching process will be improved as further adjustments are made.
“Few to none of the respondents have faced trouble during self-isolation as those that had decided to enter the UK, had been well equipped with knowledge and guidance,” said Vignesh Karthik, NISAU-UK’s head of thought leadership.
There have been concerns for student well-being as several campuses reported coronavirus outbreaks, resulting in Universities UK’s new checklist of measures for universities to ensure access to basics during enforced quarantines. Among some of the specific measures in place, the University of Salford has set up an international “buddy project” to support international students through self-isolation and Cardiff University and the University of Bristol said it is offering packs for students in self-isolation, which includes bedding and food.
Vivienne Stern, Director of Universities UK International, said: “Universities have robust plans in place that prioritise the health and safety of their students, staff and wider community, while continuing to deliver a high-quality teaching experience. Our first message to any student is to talk to their university to understand any flexible arrangements and support in place for students depending on their circumstances.”
The Graduate Route allows international students to remain in the UK to work after graduation and under modified rules as a result of international travel being hit by the pandemic, overseas students will qualify for it provided they are in the UK by April 2021.
Bobby Mehta, Director of University of Portsmouth Global and Chair of the British Universities International Liaison Association, said: “UK universities are offering measures such as staggered and later start dates, online starts and a whole package of support for international students to accommodate individual circumstances.
“We understand that this is a difficult time to make decisions about studying in another country, but we are here to support students to pursue their plans.”
According to the latest Office for National Statistics (ONS) data, India is largely responsible for driving up Britain’s overseas student arrivals, who account for great financial gains for the UK universities with fees nearly three times that paid by domestic students.
There is a widespread call across the student community, international and domestic, for some respite from fees for this year amid the lockdown restrictions, which has severely impacted campus life across the UK.