Key takeaways from The PIE Live Europe’s international student roundtable

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The PIE has unpacked the key points expressed by the students that readers should take note of.

Benefits of the UK as a study destination

Amid uncertainty over the graduate route,NHS surcharge risesand a crackdown on family dependants, the UK might not appear to be the most welcoming international study destination in the current climate.

Yet the enduring reputation of quality higher education in the UK continues to attract students from around the globe, who said they were drawn to wider societal benefits such as the NHS and the UK’s proximity to Europe.

Anastasiia Guseva, a Russian student at Uxbridge College, chose to study in the UK rather than the US, Canada or Australia after attending a summer program at King’s College London.

She was influenced by her mother, who also completed her masters in the UK, as well as the clear healthcare policy for international students and the ease of travel to Europe.

Guseva, who is doing a business diploma, was also drawn by the accessibility to international business markets and felt positive about long-term career opportunities in the UK for women in traditionally male-dominated fields.

“It is even more competitive for international students to get a career in skilled fields after graduation because of the fees involved in visa sponsorship. To retain talent, fostering a more open dialogue around supporting international students in pursuing opportunities relevant to their degrees alongside their studies would be beneficial,” said Guseva.

Vitto Axel, an Indonesian student at Lancaster University, said that the UK had the best academic reputation of the main global study destinations and that he felt welcome at his university where there is an Indonesian society of roughly 30 active members which eased his assimilation process.

“British people are much friendlier than I expected,” added a Kuwaiti student studying a foundation in engineering at UCLan, who said that he received monthly welfare checks while on his foundation and felt “really well supported” by his university.

Financial investment

The fact that international students pay higher fees than domestic students is well-known. It is also a reason why international students often get drawn into political debates, with universities being accused of lowering admissions requirements for international students to fill funding deficits.

And yet, the financial cost of being an international student includes myriad hidden fees that universities and agents need to communicate more clearly in the application process, said the students.

One student estimated she spent £30,000 per year for a three-year undergraduate degree at Durham University, and a further £65,000 for a master’s degree at UCL including international fees of £29,000.

Yash Nag, a former international student at Loughborough university, estimated that he spent a total of £75,000 during his three years studying in the UK.

“By the time I graduated, the interest rate on my loan was up to 15.5%”

“International students don’t get government funding, so I had to take out a loan from a bank. By the time I graduated, my interest rate was up to 15.5% and I was also paying a compound interest of £250 a month while studying,” said Nag. His loan had risen from £31,000 to £52,000 when he graduated.

On top of this, Nag also had to pay for his student visa application fee (which now costs £490), the NHS surcharge and English language tests required by universities.

International students are not entitled to a guarantor, so Nag had to pay an upfront sum of £7,000 for 13 months of off-campus student accommodation.

“International students pay taxes on any money earned from part-time jobs and you can’t apply for tax returns, you can’t apply for public funds. Don’t even try and apply for these because it will affect your application for your skilled worker visa or post-study work visa,” warned Nag.

Across the board, students said they were feeling the impact of the cost-of-living crisis, and many are also suffering from fluctuating exchange rates from their home countries. A student at Cambridge University expressed her shock at the fact that a ticket for the end of university May Ball totalled £275 – a fee that she could not afford to pay.

Career opportunities

International students are allowed to work for up to 20 hours a week alongside their studies. Most of the students said that they had done this, primarily working in on-campus jobs and student ambassador roles that were easier to get and added to their wider university experience.

Roughly half of the students expressed a desire to stay and work in the UK after graduating. However, several students said that barriers to setting up their own businesses would deter them from staying in the UK.

Axel wanted to start his own tourism business in the UK alongside university, but his student visa restricts any kind of self-employment.

While you can be self-employed on the graduate route visa, to start a business Axel would have to apply for the new innovator founder visa,but he was advised by his university that the entry requirements were too high.

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