July 24, 2024

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Why is it so hard for foreigners to study at UK universities?

Why is it so hard for foreigners to study at UK universities?

photo caption, After Brexit, there has been a significant decline in the number of students coming from EU countries

The United Kingdom has the second highest number of Nobel laureates – and has four of the world’s 10 best universities, according to the prestigious QS World Rankings.

By 2023, more than a quarter of the world’s countries – specifically 58 – will be led by someone educated in the UK, second only to the US, with 65 leaders, British higher education institutions boast.

The high-quality teaching, academic reputation and prestige of its courses attract thousands of foreign students every year, who compete with local students – and pay higher monthly fees.

But statistics show that the country is losing its appeal to students. The high cost of courses has been exacerbated by Brexit, the UK’s exit from the European Union, high inflation and restrictions imposed by current Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s government.

There are restricted benefits, such as changes to student visas, conditions where students can continue to work after graduation or the possibility of bringing their families with them.

Students who have already completed their studies can stay in the UK for two years (three years for PhD holders) to work on a postgraduate visa. However, during this period, they cannot apply for visas for their family members.

Dependents include children under 18, spouses or common-law partners, and elderly parents who require long-term care.

Also, while British undergraduates pay a maximum fee of R$63,500 per year, foreigners may have to pay up to R$268,000 per year thanks to a cap imposed by the government.

debt, Alexandra Flores

photo caption, Alexandra Flores completed her degree in Fashion Marketing and Journalism at London Metropolitan University in June this year.

Peruvian Alexandra Flores came to the UK in 2021 to study Fashion Marketing and Journalism at London Metropolitan University.

“I paid US$17,000 (R$94,000) a year. It’s not much for being a foreigner here in London, but the visa costs almost US$800 (R$4,400) and then there are unexpected expenses like health insurance. I had to. For three years US$22,000 (R (pay $121,000),” he told BBC News Mundo, the BBC’s Spanish-language news service.

Fluctuations in exchange rate changes can also change the final bill. “There is a misconception that many international students come to show off, in my case that was not the case, I had to work a lot, it was easy for me to go to Spain, but here it was a challenge. .”

Migration control

In January, a key part of the Sunak government’s strategy to reduce immigration came into force by “ending the irrational practice of overseas students bringing their families to the UK”, as Home Secretary James wittily said at the time.

“This will quickly reduce migration by tens of thousands,” he added.

The British government believes that many migrants use student visas indirectly to work in the UK.

As a result, the cost of visas has also increased, and from April 2024, the standard value of a visa has increased from nearly US$800 (R$4,400) to US$1,300 (R$7,000).

photo caption, For Sarah Whalley, second in photography, studying and working in London at the same time was a challenge

For Lavina Chainani, co-founder of Popyourbubble, a company that facilitates the mobility and integration of foreigners, another factor behind the difficulty of entering British higher education is that a 25% increase in the 18-year-old population is expected by 2030. .

“This will greatly restrict vacancies for foreigners,” he estimates.

With a student visa, international students can work up to 20 hours per week, including full time on holidays. But now even if they get a job offer, their visa type cannot be changed to a skilled worker visa until they complete their studies.

Fewer visas were issued

Flores used every vacation to work in Lima, save a lot and return to London. But his colleague in journalism, the Spanish Sara Valle, cheated on classes with work.

“In the first year, I was able to work, because the first year is not so intense, you start, you have work and a lot of things, but there is time for everything, and in the second, I did. But in this third year, I had to reduce my working hours and use some savings. The time has come,” says Wale.

All these factors mean that, despite the prestige, the number of student visas issued has fallen by 6% to the end of March 2024 – and the number of postgraduate students has fallen by a third.

photo caption, Oxford University is one of the oldest in the world

According to the Financial Times newspaper, the Enrollee site, which 1 in 3 foreign students use to apply for different courses, said 24 British universities had recorded a 57% drop in admission rates in the year to May.

Simon Jones, an academic with 30 years’ experience working in the UK and international university markets, believes the Conservative government has created an unfavorable environment for universities and students.

“The reputation of British higher education remains strong. But the willingness of students to access a hostile political environment is destroying all prospects.”

“Who can afford to live as a student in London, especially when their ability to work is restricted? For the same money, a student can have a similar educational experience while in a skilled, well-paid job in Australia,” he adds.

According to Jones, the current problem is that the government treats foreign students as immigrants.

photo caption, The United Kingdom has four of the top 10 universities in the world

Ahead of the general election on July 4, the Conservative government is trying to push its agenda as far as possible, particularly on immigration, and to go to the polls with some favorable numbers.

The fight against illegal immigration is one of the mainstays of the ruling Conservative Party – and Rishi Sunak has promised to cut it drastically when he becomes prime minister in October 2022.

“It’s much easier to measure the number of students arriving in the UK than the number of people arriving in the UK on an inflatable boat from France, because they go through airports with their passports. But it’s all in the same cake,” says Jones.

He believes that the debate about “what is a student, a foreign student and a migrant” is deeply dishonest in the country’s political discourse at the moment.

And then what happens?

Flores graduated in June of this year and is now facing the job market.

A Peruvian on a student visa can stay in the UK, but must apply for a two-year postgraduate visa, which costs around R$6,100, with health cover.

Also, he needs to find a job that pays him at least R$270,000 a year, a salary that is now very difficult for a graduate to get.

This value is part of the strict conditions imposed by the current government – previously it was more than R$180 thousand.

“I have many foreign friends who studied with me and they unfortunately return to their countries because it’s expensive and it’s difficult. Maybe you can cover the cost of the visa, but who’s going to hire you for R$270,000?”, he asks. .

“I applied to more than 100 companies, and only five in total responded to me, which was uncertain,” he says.

The job market in the United Kingdom for under-25s isn’t great either.