Update on the State of International Student Experience and Representation

Your current VP Communities and VP S&E, Matthew and Aisha, are writing to our international student members with an update on the state of their representation within QMSU...

Representatives

Your current Vice President Communities and Vice President Science & Engineering, Matthew and Aisha, are writing to our international student members with an update on the state of their representation within the Queen Mary Students’ Union, including how we as your Students' Union continue to advocate and lobby on your behalf to improve your experience across the university. Our correspondence comes at a point during which international student recruitment continues to grow while our students remain under increasing distress from national government policies, as well as rhetoric and narratives espoused by news media outlets. Moreover, like their home status peers, our international students also continue to be affected by the United Kingdom’s ongoing cost of living crisis

International student tuition fees remain uncapped and at significantly higher rates than those with home fee status. Recent policy implementation has also included the limiting on international students’ ability to bring dependents, the skilled worker visa salary threshold having increased by over £10,000, and the immigration surcharge continuing to surge with a 66% increase this month. 

One of the most challenging aspects of representing international students in the face of these issues at Queen Mary is the lack of a Vice Principal (International). In summer of 2023, the university’s Vice Principal overseeing international students and student partnerships left to take up a role abroad. The now vacant post was advertised, but a candidate was not appointed. This created a gap, as the role’s portfolio is currently absorbed by other members of the university’s Senior Executive Team, and the relevant meetings in which Students’ Union’s representatives (Vice President Communities and Part-Time Representatives for international students) held membership were indefinitely postponed. 

Matthew and Aisha (who are both international students) began lobbying the Senior Executive Team and Student Experience Directorate to implement a suitable stopgap measure, ensuring an appropriate space remained available to present feedback until the Vice Principal (International) role is filled. In December 2023, the International Student Experience Working Group was formed, with the Vice Principal (Policy and Strategic Partnerships) acting as sponsor from the Senior Executive Team. 

 

The International Student Experience Working Group’s purpose is: 

To enhance the overall experience of international students within Queen Mary University of London. The group will focus on identifying challenges faced by international students and developing recommendations to improve their academic, social, and cultural integration. 

The first two meetings (December 2023 and January 2024) focused on establishing a terms of reference, membership list, and activity tracker. Examples of activities logged from your Students’ Union included:  

  • Protection of international students from predatory landlords via a Queen Mary-owned housing guarantor scheme; 

  • International partnership studentship stipends not meeting the United Kingdom Research and Innovation minimum threshold; 

  • Lack of community between international students across cohorts; 

  • Excessive waiting periods for academic misconduct allegation results, which impacts on visa application timelines; 

  • And excessive international tuition fees beyond what it costs to run a particular course. 

The next International Student Experience Working Group commences the week commencing 12 February, during which the activity tracker mapping exercise will be reviewed as the group moves towards a more formalised action plan. 

Outside of this working group, Matthew and Aisha continue to advocate for international students in all applicable spaces and encounters (e.g. Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion, Careers and Enterprise, Queen Mary Academy, Doctoral College). Matthew also continues to work closely with the Advice and Counselling Service and is currently working on co-organising several events to take place over the next couple of months aimed at further supporting international students. 

Your Queen Mary Students’ Union will continue to advocate for its international student membership and act as the university’s ‘critical friend’ to ensure all international students feel welcome and valued for the contributions they make across our campuses. If you are an international student here at Queen Mary and in need of support, please consider the following resources: 

QMUL Visa and international student advice 

QMUL Careers and Enterprise for International Students 

QMSU Academic Advice Service 

If you wish to provide further feedback about your experience as an international student, please reach out to your Students’ Union at su-representation@qmul.ac.uk and we will direct your query appropriately. 

 

Your Vice President Communities and Vice President Science & Engineering, 
Matthew Beach & Aisha Qadi 
 

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