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ayane hida

postgraduate education
a.hida@uea.ac.uk

letter to the vice-chancellor: international students

Dear all, 

I hope you are well and staying safe.

Myself and the part-time international student officers have written a letter to the VC outlining the concerns that international students have and how they are feeling.

We, international students, do not feel supported by the University or that they receive value for money on tuition fees, that the impact of some solutions such as defering would cause even greater anxiety and cost to them and that the University has not communicated adequately with them.

We have outlined our specific concerns in our open letter and would encourage you to have a read.

If you have any questions and concerns, please email me at: a.hida@uea.ac.uk

Download the letter

Full text of our letter:

Dear Vice-Chancellor,

I hope you are keeping well and staying safe in these difficult times. We are writing to you as representatives of International Students at UEA and over the last few weeks we have been made aware of several issues we would like to raise with you and work on how we better can support International Students and respond to their needs. International Students do not feel supported by the University, they feel that there is little sympathy and support for their unique position. Accessibility to home and family is significantly important and the restrictions to travel creates a lot of stress and anxiety, and many international students have family that are vulnerable to COVID-19. It took one student two weeks to get home following the death of the student’s family member, other students are restricted by placements. For students to have to lobby to get free PCR testing, demonstrates that lack of thought by UEA who should have pre-empted this and offered this in plenty of time for students to make arrangements.

International students pay fees determined by the University and direct to them, and they feel that the value of their experience has not met the fees, particularly for PGT students. There is a common experience of being offered face to face teaching and in reality, the delivery is only on-line. One student approached their school in the summer to discuss teaching and living arrangements. They were assured that teaching would be taking place face to face and therefore incurred the costs of travel and accommodation, but the teaching has been 100% on-line. No one doubts that international students have less money than living and studying in their countries. Especially given the fact that how international students pay the university their tuition fee is completely different from home students, the university should not consider the frustration from international students is the same as home students. When UEA makes students announcements, it needs to consider the needs of international students. They appreciate that UEA may not have the answers but information that simply delays outcomes or dates (assessments, lab work or placements) causing real anxiety for international students as this may impact on their accommodation or travel arrangements.

We will have more internationals students coming in February. They have been suggested that they could defer their start date for the course to next academic year, however, this suggestion is totally ignoring their situation. For instance, some of them already quit their job to prepare their course from February. Some of them pay their tuition fee with their student loan which have been confirmed for the course from February not September. If they defer their course, their visa will be expired which means they have to apply for the visa again which would require their time and money. Besides, when they were offered their intake, it was supposed to be face-to-face on campus which was cancelled at least 1st March. The above would never happen to home students who do not need visa to study at UEA because the system how home students pay UEA is comprehensively different from those for international students.

International students find the Tier 4 Visa system cumbersome and restrictive and they would like to see Universities lobby the UK Government to make improvements to the scheme. Students feel beholden to the university as their sponsor and are unable to travel as frequently as they might like, especially during the pandemic. Furthermore, the UK left the EU at the end of 2020 communication has not been clear on how this impacts our international students in terms of visa. International students have to pay NHS fees to access care, but UK (and in particular local providers) can have long waiting lists for mental health support and once a student goes home, they no longer have access to the NHS but are still paying for it.

Here are some specific concerns:

  • Can international students go back to their countries and work on their dissertations in their countries – what will happen to their accommodation fees?
  • UEA to commission an independent review on the value of International student tuition fees for the academic year 20/21.
  • Students who have not have face to face teaching to get a refund on travel and accommodation
  • Refund the test fee that international students had to pay to go back to their countries (they refund for students who will come back to UK in January but not in December. Obviously home students didn’t have to take this test. So, this may be national issue not only in UEA)
  • If the UK government force returning International Students to quarantine in hotels at arrival points. How will UEA support these our international students in terms of wellbeing, facilities for learning and cost?

Again, unlike the other university such as Cambridge, UEA international students were promised that they would have at least some face-to-face teaching. That’s how they decided to come to UEA in the academic year 2020-21, however, the promise was revoked, and we do not feel support from UEA despite the change. We, international students, need the additional support from UEA, and we are frustrated because we have not seen any towards us.

Regards,

Ayane Hida – Postgraduate Education Officer

Gahzal Qadir – International Student Officer

Syed Saad – International Student Officer

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