From education to employment

52% of international students plan to defer university entry until 2021

Dr. Tim Bradshaw, Chief Executive of the Russell Group

@RussellGroup sets out proposals to give UK the edge in competitive international student market 

Leading UK universities are calling for continuing reform of student visa system, joint international marketing campaign and push for global recognition of online courses.

QS survey found that of students who have had to change their plans to study in the UK due to COVID-19, a majority still intend to study abroad in the future with 52% of respondents planning to defer their entry until 2021 if they are unable to start this year.

Fast-tracking the post-study work visa into law and extending it by six months are among a set of proposals set out by the Russell Group, which represents 24 leading UK universities, to ensure Britain remans a top destination for international students.

The proposals, published today (20 May) are aimed at protecting Britain’s ‘hard won’ reputation as a global leader in higher education, which attracts thousands of students to the country each year, bringing significant social, cultural and economic benefits.

The Covid-19 crisis will have a major impact on the number of international students looking to study in the UK and elsewhere, however studies suggest most international students still intend to study abroad in future.

The global nature of the crisis means competition for students will be fierce but with a world leading ‘brand’ to build on the UK has an advantage.

To strengthen the UK’s position as an open and welcoming place to study as international student numbers rise over the next few years, the Russell Group is proposing a three-part plan to be delivered alongside the UK government:

1. Continuing visa reforms to streamline the immigration process and ensure Britain remains a globally attractive destination for students 

As well as passing the 2-year post study work visa through emergency immigration rules immediately, the Government should consider a range of other measures to give the UK an edge over competitors.

These include increasing the visa to 30 months, allowing students to apply for a visa six months before their physical course start date (rather than three), reviewing compliance policies to ensure international students feel welcome and extending concessions for disruption caused by Covid-19, such as fee waivers for those forced to extend visas.

2. A joint international marketing campaign to show the UK and its universities are an open, safe and welcoming place to study

A new campaign involving universities, the British Council, DfE and the Department for International Trade targeting key countries to show the UK is an attractive destination for study, work and investment.

3. Seeking global consensus on recognition of online courses

The necessity of social distancing measures to protect lives mean universities are looking at courses with a mixture of online and face to face provision. However, some countries do not recognise international degrees with significant elements of online learning, a key issue for international students who return to their home countries for work after graduation. To address this the Russell Group recommends the UK works with other governments to agree reciprocal recognition agreements over courses which may be delivered partly online during and in the aftermath of Covid-19.

“International students bring many benefits to the UK, but as the world recovers from the Covid-19 crisis, we have to expect numbers will fall for a while and that competition from other countries will be even more fierce than usual. With more top universities than any country other than the US, the UK has an advantage but we must maintain that and protect our hard-won reputation as one of the best places globally to study for a degree.

“The Government has shown its determination to do that with the new 2-year post study work visa and now is the time to build on this progress. Further action to streamline the immigration process, alongside an ambitious campaign to show the UK’s doors are open will be crucial to helping the country bounce back.”

Dr. Tim Bradshaw, Chief Executive of the Russell Group


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