Usually they need to show a set amount of money for each month of their course, for up to 9 months, along with money for any dependents.
Back in January, PIE News reported an unpleasant little scheme where Nigerian education agents offer loans to students so they can bypass UK immigration requirements. Once the student receives their visa, they return the money to the agent with a hefty mark-up.
This one, which took me all of 8 seconds to find, takes interest of 6.5 percent for the service.
The current figure from the Home Office is £1,023 (outside London) for each month of the course (up to a maximum of 9 months). International students are then able to work for a maximum of 20 hours per week during term-time.
That’s interesting – because the maximum loan for students living away from home in England is £9,706 (outside London). I’ve struggled to work out how the Home Office figure is calculated, but it’s almost exactly the same as £9,706 in nine chunks.
I raise this because PIE News reported this week that the Canadian Federation of Students is calling on the government to waive Canada’s 20-hour work limit for international students as inflation in the country reaches a 30-year high.
CFS is arguing that rising costs – including rent, bills, tuition fees and food – have left some international students unable to afford basic necessities. And the article notes that the Indian National Students Association in the UK has warned that international students here could soon face the same financial problems there as the cost of living continues to rise.
Whether the government relaxes the rules remains to be seen. But one aspect that arises out of this is the role that the income requirement plays in the information, advice and guidance space.
As I say, it’s not at all clear where the £1,023 figure comes from, or the basis on which it is uprated. But even if you imagine, for example, that last year’s figure of £1,015 was enough to live on this year, the idea that it’s only being uprated by less than 1 percent for this coming September is astonishing given what we know about inflation.
I would imagine that individual universities in the UK will be in no rush to point out to prospective international students that the “enough money to live on” figure might be a major underestimate given where inflation is.
But shouldn’t every university in the country be signalling to international students the coming economic crisis, and advising them, their agents and the Home Office that the number needs to go up – sharpish?
Meanwhile something I’ve come across too many times over the past few months is also causing major headaches for international students.
Generally student visas have an end date that takes the end of the course, and then includes a “wrap-up period” – during which students can remain in the UK for travel, work, leisure, to attend their graduation, or to make a new visa application.
It’s pretty clear that a major factor in causing the UK to smash the original international education strategy target on recruitment is the reintroduction of a post-study work visa. But the Graduate Route is obviously only open to those students whose education provider has confirmed that the student has successfully completed their course.
The headache that creates – especially for universities either with multiple, or especially this year, flexible start dates, is where a student fails and needs an opportunity to resit. I keep coming across universities where it appears that although the student has enough time to resubmit the coursework or sit a new exam, the exam board isn’t then meeting in time to issue the confirmation of a pass before the visa runs out.
And the problem is, you must also be in the UK when you apply for a Graduate visa.
I’m sure that organising exam boards is harder than I imagine, especially in a period where industrial relations means that external examiners might be less motivated than usual and the number of applications for extenuating or mitigating circumstances is up.
But given the sheer volume of international students that arrived late this year and have been impacted by the pandemic, surely the safety net of a resit regime should include an exam board meeting in time to prevent a student having to forcibly leave the country before they get their results?
And even outside of the ambit of the pandemic and its impacts, surely when a university makes a song and dance of the graduate route being a part of the UK’s offer, it’s incumbent on that university to ensure that the exam board arrangements allow someone to resit if necessary and not have to leave the country?
Oh – and the related issue is academic misconduct cases. There’s a glut that are taking longer to investigate and resolve than usual, with the same impacts in terms of pushing up against and over the deadline to apply for the graduate route or leave. If an allegation is eventually found not to be upheld, this feels spectacularly harsh – and surely needs a solution.