Earlier this term UoR’s Vice-Chancellor Professor Robert Van de Noort responded to questions about the international student experience in an interview with current part-time international officer, Sara Mattar.
The questions- which focused on topics including higher tuition fees, visas and homesickness –formed Sara’s #breakthesilence campaign aimed at encouraging international students to speak more openly about their mental health whilst at the university.
And having provided Sara with detailed answers to her enquiries, she plans to use the responses to structure an informative guide for international students which signposts them to support and addresses their frequently asked questions.
1. Why do international students pay double the amount that home students do?
The UK government sets a maximum tuition fee for ‘Home’ (UK/EU) students, whereas there is no limit for international student tuition fees. Like all UK universities, we receive some government subsidies for some groups of Home students to offset the difference between tuition fees received and the total cost of delivering tuition and support.
As a university, we compete in a global market for international students, and our tuition fees reflect this. Additional income from international student fees allows us to fund activities where costs exceed income, for example teaching of some higher-cost subjects and research activities.
2. Why is a visa not provided within international students’ tuition fees?
As not all international students need a Tier 4 student visa to study here, it would be inappropriate to include the cost of a visa in the fees as not all students would need this. We are not aware of any other institution where the tuition fee includes visa costs.
However, the University does pay the Home Office for every student it wishes to sponsor under Tier 4 and for each Conformation of Acceptance of Study (CAS) which we issue for this purpose. In cases where students’ visas are refused or they wish to extend their visa, we do not charge the student for a repeat CAS.
Our International Student Advisory team offer free immigration advice and support for all our students. This is important as external organisations offering one-to-one advice would usually charge significant amounts to access this.
3. What additional services and support are provided for international students?
Our dedicated International Student Advisory team provide support and information for our international students and their dependants. For example, we provide information about living in the UK, opening bank accounts, registering with the police, and applying for schools for dependants.
All undergraduate and postgraduate taught international students are offered support through our STaR Mentor scheme and we also offer in-sessional English language support. In addition, Blackbullion – our money smart online tool – provides specific learning sections for international students.
4. It is common for international students to feel homesick when travelling overseas to study. How do UoR address this?
This year, we have launched ‘Global Buddies’ - a monthly event held in the Library café. These events are open to all and provide a place to meet new people as well as celebrating different cultural events and celebrations.
We are also aware that international students are more likely to stay in Reading during the vacations and we put on events to bring these students together. Our popular ‘Gingerbread’ event just before Christmas was fully booked and we also provided our students with information on events in Reading over the festive period.
For any students experiencing homesickness, whether from the UK or from further afield, I would recommend that they speak to our dedicated Student Welfare Team in the first instance. You can drop in and see them in the Carrington Building, or contact them by phone or email. See our website for further information.
5. How will the strike action affect international students, especially as their tuition fee is higher than home students’?
It is important to note that the majority of my colleagues did not participate in strike action in autumn 2019, meaning most classes went ahead as normal on strike days. Where there has been impact, our first response will be to minimise this. Schools are working hard to identify the most appropriate way to deliver teaching or materials for any classes affected so that students’ learning is not unreasonably affected.
If students consider that they have been academically disadvantaged in an assessment as a result of strike action, we have set up a separate process for reporting this which will ensure that programme examiners take this into account. This process is called Impact of Strike Action on Academic Performance. Please see our website for further information.
Additional commentary provided by Taz Usher, Print Editor of The Spark.