âž¡ How did you come up with the concept of YourGuarantor?
My eldest son is studying Japanese at Sheffield University and went to Tokyo last year for his sandwich year. Upon finding an apartment, he was then asked to provide a Japanese guarantor or pay a full year’s rent in advance. There was the option of using a guarantor company, but these were very expensive and there was also a language barrier issue. So, I then looked to see if the same issue applied to overseas students studying in the UK and found that it did. When I looked into guarantor provision, I found it to be either very expensive or with limited scope and availability. Student Unions at a national and local level are lobbying universities to act as guarantor and it became apparent to me, that what was needed was an institutional guarantor that could allow universities to deliver against this demand.
âž¡ Could you explain the process of how you work with UK universities?
Sure. Our facility comprises three components: a web-based platform; an industry recognised insurance policy; and a team dedicated to supporting universities in the roll out of the service. Our platform allows the student to request the guarantor certificate, for the university to verify the student’s credentials and the generation of the university guarantor documentation.
The insurance policy underpinning the guarantor certificate is an industry recognised policy provided by one of the UK’s largest insurers. There is no cost or contractual commitment for the university (the student pays for the service with the cost being a function of the rent), they simply become a participating member, thereby enabling their students to access the service. The university is free to join and leave the scheme as it wishes, safe in the knowledge that any outstanding commitments will be covered by the insurer.
âž¡ Why would a university offer your scheme rather than their own?
Our service is open to all international students except first year undergraduates. The maximum rent we cover is approximately three times higher than the average level set by universities. There are no qualifying criteria for students to be accepted other than they be non-UK (EU or non EU) and not in their first year of HE study. Universities will not be financially exposed with our scheme and will not be faced with challenges of recovering non-academic debt from students in the event they need to pay the rent. Administratively lighter (our platform manages the workflow end to end), the only real activities done by the university are verification at point of application and notification to the insurer in the event of a potential default.
âž¡ International students have become a key fixture in the UK HE sector; are universities doing enough to keep them satisfied?
I think that in the main they are. Provision of non-academic services today are becoming as important as the academic standards. This applies especially to overseas students, as many will be coming to the UK for the experience of going to another country, as much as to study at a particular institution. Although, perhaps sometimes overused, the term ‘student experience’ really does apply more than ever to overseas students.
âž¡ How do you see YourGuarantor growing and developing in the future?
I’d like to see YourGuarantor adopted by all UK universities, which will mean that nearly every international student coming to the UK will be provided with the choice, when moving into the private rental sector. A choice of whether to pay all of their rent in advance or pay monthly, giving them the security and benefits that are available to UK students.
I’d also like to roll the service out to cover UK students and will be looking at the UK postgraduate community as a second phase.