NUS: More help for foreign students

The National Union of Students has released new research which calls for more financial security for international students hit by hardship

The report explores the kinds of hardship experienced by international students at UK higher education institutions and evaluates the potential for the creation of a national hardship scheme for international students.

It found that over two thirds of institutions did not have a separate fund or procedure for students affected by external crises.

The types of hardship experienced by international students in the report include political, economic or natural disasters, illness of themselves or their family and money promised by a sponsor or their family not being available. Personal crises such as a death of a parent were found to be overwhelmingly the most frequent form of major hardship.

The report also suggests that that some hardship is foreseeable and that its impact can be lessened by improving recruitment procedures and tactics used by institutions. 

High profile international events have re-opened the debate on financial security of international students. Potentially hundreds of Syrian students struggled financially when they received reduced or even vanished funding because of the political chaos taking place at the moment in their home country. 

The situation was so severe and support provided by institutions inconsistent that Vince Cable and David Willlets wrote to Universities UK requesting that its members defer the payment of fees and provide access to hardship funds. Today, the situation affecting these students still remains uncertain. 

While incidents like these are high profile, they only scratch the surface of international students who face financial hardship. In 2004, UKCISA found that 23% of international students surveyed answered that they felt “did not have enough money to live on. Similar percentages have been discovered amongst international students in Australia, New Zealand and the United States. However, little is known what happens to these students, how they cope or what support they can access.

Daniel Stevens, NUS international students’ officer, said: “It is totally naïve to assume that all international students come from wealthy backgrounds and can support themselves through everything. There are times when international students are faced with entirely unexpected circumstances. This research shows that it is possible to create a much needed lifeline for these students.

“International students take huge risks in going abroad to study in a foreign country. They leave their own safety nets of friends and families and their own governments behind. Host countries have a duty of care to international students in being upfront about all costs that will be incurred when studying abroad, and in providing support when things go wrong.”

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