Government Under Mounting Pressure Over Visa Decisions for International Students

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The UK Government is under increasing pressure to clarify visa policy for international students in the 2020-21 academic year ahead of likely ‘hybrid’ teaching methods.

Universities around the country – including Southampton – are beginning to confirm plans for teaching in the next academic year, with a significant number hoping to have some form of in-person teaching from September. Institutions have received support from Universities UK, who have outlined nine key principles for universities to emerge from lockdown including hygiene practices and engagement with students.

However, issues have emerged for international students who are trying to decide if or where they will study from September.

Universities UK has asked the government to reassure international students with three key points:

  • Confirm that online teaching will not disqualify students from the Graduate Route, launching for new students in the 2020/21 academic year, which allows students with valid immigration status in the UK as students to have two years to work after graduation.
  • Extend the visa application window to six months (as opposed to three) to allow students to start online courses.
  • Extend rules for Tier 4 students which would allow them to study online partially.

Vice-Chancellor of the University of Exeter, Professor Steve Smith, has been appointed International Education Champion to support this.

Professor Julia Buckingham, President of Universities UK, said:

We have a short window to convince undecided applicants that they can plan with confidence to study in the UK this autumn. This needs action by government as well as universities.

It is excellent news that the UK Government has confirmed the Graduate Route will be in place by summer 2021, and that visa application centres are starting to reopen. Universities are now sharing plans setting out how they will welcome students this autumn, combining face-to-face teaching where possible with online delivery to ensure students are safe. Yet changes to the visa system to keep pace with the changes to teaching are now urgent. This is important for students who might be reserving final judgments about whether to come to the UK or not in the autumn.

The University of Southampton confirmed earlier in June that their campuses would be open for the start of Semester 1 on 28th September 2020.

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1st Year Population & Geography student and Sports / International Sub-Editor

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