This year has been hard on all of us but we recognise that it has been particularly challenging for our international students. We thought it would be useful to give an update of some of the things we’ve been working on this year to support international students.
The pandemic has had a huge impact on international students, some of whom have not been able to return to the UK and therefore have been completing their studies from their home countries. In some cases, this initially led to students being expected to be at lectures at inappropriately late times due to time zone differences. We reported these issues to the university to make sure this was resolved for those affected students.
Summer resit dates
Your student reps have also raised that the timings of summer resit dates are inaccessible for International students, bringing this to the university's registry team. This would require international students to travel back to the UK just to resit exams which is expensive and inconvenient. It would be more ideal for resit exams to be closer to the start of term so once students return to the UK they can stay for the semester. Their response so far was that the late summer resit exam window has been set for the next 6-7 years, but they have offered to meet with our S&E International rep to discuss this further. We believe that the pandemic has clearly demonstrated that plans can change and we must be adaptable to accommodate the needs of our students.
Tuition fees and student deregistration
This year, we’ve also been in discussions with the university to improve the process for students to pay in installments, firstly by removing the admin charge for doing so, and secondly by allowing students to pay in more than two installments for their tuition. International students’ fees are disproportionately high and we believe that expecting all students to be able to pay in two large sums is not fair. Moreover, the effect of the pandemic has meant that many people are facing financial difficulties due to job losses. As the January 31st deadline approached, we received an increased number of students reaching out to us concerned about not being able to pay, and the following potential consequences of being deregistered and losing their visa. We were disappointed that despite this, the university did not offer an extension to the deadline. However, they assured us that no automatic deregistration would take place and that they would speak to students about their individual situations and come up with a way to allow them more time to make payments on a case by case basis. Although it’s not what we initially wanted, we recognise that this has still allowed students more time to gather the funds to make the payments and remain students here. We have also been informed that the university is now looking into additional instalments as part of the payment plan and hope to receive an update soon.
This leads on to a wider concern around the tuition fees cost as a whole. Our Students’ Union President has been involved in a national campaign to lobby the government to provide more financial support to universities to lower tuition fees, called Students United Against Fees [link to article]. International students’ fees are already much higher than home students, however we understand that many students have found this especially unfair this year as most teaching has been online and blended learning was misrepresented and not the experience that they were hoping for. This is evidenced by a motion that was passed at the Annual Student Meeting on 26th January.
A record number of international students were in attendance and together they amended and passed the motion: Should international fees be reduced and the payment deadlines be delayed? The motion mandates the Students’ Union to lobby for payment deadlines to be delayed until the end of the year; the installation process to be expanded to at least four installments rather than two; and the University to refund a percentage of the tuition fees, rescind the increase in fees, and charge less for the upcoming academic year. This is reflective of what students have been saying to us all year and what we have already been trying to achieve through regular meetings with the Vice Principal International and the Global Engagement team, however it is encouraging to have the backing of this motion behind us as we continue to lobby for these outcomes. So far the current response we have received has explained that the fees figure has already been confirmed years in advance, but is now set to increase by a smaller percentage next year than usual. However we believe that it should not be increased at all, and the University must respond to the ever changing circumstances of the pandemic and its ongoing effect on students. As mentioned before, the pandemic has clearly shown us that plans can change and we are more able to adapt than we realised - so why not apply this to international students’ fees? We will continue to update you on this issue.
In more positive news, the University has successfully lobbied the government along with Universities UK and the Russell Group to extend the deadline for students on the Graduate Route. Previously, students were expected to return to the UK by 6th April to be eligible, however this week it was laid in parliament that the eligibility date has been extended to 21st June 2021 which is a huge sigh of relief for those students currently still residing in their home countries due to the pandemic. Covid student visa guidance has now been updated and you can read more about this here.
Finally, on a lighter note, your international reps have also been planning an International Week from 15th March to celebrate the international community at Queen Mary and the diverse range of students that make up the community here. Keep an eye out on social media to see profiles on different students and learn more about their countries; and there might even be a quiz!
Please feel free to email us if you have further concerns of feedback that you’d like to pass on to the university. It’s our job to represent you so please don’t hesitate to get in touch!
Tiana Dinard-Samuel, Vice President Communities - email@example.com
Stephanie Tang, International Representative (Science and Engineering): firstname.lastname@example.org
Francis Elechi, International Representative (BL): email@example.com
Humanities and Social Sciences International Rep: firstname.lastname@example.org