Some international students are squeezed in the mess of the marking boycott

Given the threat of having to leave the country, it was always going to be international students among those hit the hardest by a Marking and Assessment Boycott (MAB).

To be eligible for the graduate route, an applicant must have successfully completed an eligible course of study in the UK, and the student sponsor must have notified the Home Office, by the date of application, that the applicant has successfully completed the course of study. Applications for the graduate route cannot be made from overseas.

So back in June many breathed a sigh of relief when a deal had apparently been done with UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) to allow students facing delays to final results to apply for their post-study graduate route visa on the basis of predicted grades.

But over the past week or so, myriad stories have emerged of students facing deportation and having to apply for further study or graduate route visas from their home country. So what’s gone wrong?

The first problem is that one aspect of the deal was to offer students wanting to stay in the country while they wait for their delayed results an extension on their current visa – with a refinement for an additional study visa on the basis that resits might be required.

But where those arrangements carry a price tag, universities are not routinely offering to cover those costs.

In addition any application made in the first scenario is done so at the student’s risk, and if the successful completion of the course has not been reported to UKVI within 8 weeks of the application being made, the application may still be refused.

The second is that the concession on the graduate route isn’t much help if you’re applying for further study on a PG course.

UKVI is holding firm on the line that students who are intending to move onto further study already still have the option of applying from overseas once they have received their results. Again, if you were intending to stay in the UK over the summer before starting that course, there are costs that universities are not routinely offering to cover.

UKVI also says that students who have returned overseas and subsequently need to undertake resits or repeat modules in order to successfully complete the course can be sponsored to return in line with the usual rules and guidance (and costs):

This discretionary arrangement does not apply to students who wish to progress from one course to another. The sponsor guidance already has provision for letters of formal written confirmation to be provided where the sponsor assesses the student is highly likely to complete their course successfully. There is also the option for students to return to their home country and apply for another student visa out of country.

The Home Office appears to have thought that universities would issue students with something at least suggesting that a student would meet the academic progression requirements. But it’s the “highly likely” line that is the problem. Some universities are saying that they’ve had legal advice warning them off issuing such a confirmation without an exam board meeting – shifting the risk(s) onto students as a result.

It’s a huge mess – and universities are inevitably relying on contract clauses that exempt them from liability. Whether they’re actually allowed to remains a big question.

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