Visa Crunch

Higher Education Sector Needs To Innovate Funding Models To Make Education In UK More Affordable

According to sector stakeholders, the UK international education sector has to innovate with new funding methods and initiatives to make studying in the country more accessible for overseas students.

Lowering visa and health surcharge costs, expanding scholarship possibilities, including the Chevening scheme, and implementing a loan system for overseas students are all suggestions for steps that could enhance the financing of studies in the UK.

Founder and chairman of the National Indian Students and Alumni Union UK, Sanam Arora, who operates professionally in investment management, said a particular loan plan would not be “too far-fetched” during a Westminster Higher Education Forum policy conference on international student recruitment.

“I think [we could] create an ecosystem that links the finances to the credit on offer across that global banking system, partnering up with Indian banks, which are also now, for instance, present in the UK, so [that] there’s a clear mutual fund system… that it’s something I’ve been thinking about for a while,” she said. “I think we can be quite innovative here and bold here with our strategy.”

Money is the most important factor to consider when deciding where to study, according to Jemma Davies, global head of Enrolment Partnerships at Studyportals, citing the i-graduate International Student Barometer, which found that 74% of the 110,000 student respondents cited scholarships and financial support as forces that shape their major decisions. This is larger than a single university.

They’ll be folks with competitively priced degrees, a solid scholarship programme, and a base in a town or city where living costs are reasonable, she told guests. However, given the UK, that is unlikely to be enough to influence the perception of the entire international student group.

According to Mark Bennett of FindAUniversity, one option for the UK may be comparable to the present Erasmus+ masters’ loan system, which provides a fixed sum of up to €18,000 for two years for qualifying students studying abroad in the Erasmus area for the first time to earn masters degrees. The funds are provided by lending institutions in either the outbound or inbound countries, rather than by governments or Erasmus.

The European Commission, on the other hand, provides some assurances that allow private lenders to offer reasonably favourable conditions (below-market interest rates, repayment holidays, etc.). Other statements to the introduction of an international student loan would need to be addressed, as there are clear challenges with just extending the UK’s current system.

The UK, on the other hand, is unlikely to embrace an income-contingent programme for a variety of reasons, including the difficulty of recovering debt, the potential expense to the exchequer (the domestic loan is already proving more expensive than expected), and political issues. The comments came nearly 18 months after UK stakeholders made a similar recommendation on UK government-backed loans.

In June 2020, a joint UUK International, BUILA, and UKCISA document proposed investigating “mechanisms to give government-backed loans on commercial terms to international students from designated countries” to assist students with upfront fees, similar to UK domiciled students. It was unclear at the time whether EU students would be eligible for domestic fee and loan status for entrance in 2021.

While this has been established for 2021 admission, EU students will no longer be eligible for domestic fees or loan opportunities through the UK government. However, unlike United States, which has “truly adopted the phrase scholarships,” the United Kingdom is not always viewed as a study location that provides bursaries and grants.

Despite the popularity, the UK is considered as expensive by international students, and this includes expenditures such as visas, the immigration health surcharge, and living expenses, according to Gwion Sims, head of International Recruitment at the University of York.

International departments must also collaborate with other parts of the university to fulfil the needs of international students and advocate for additional devoted resources to offer a personalized international exposure.

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