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THE UK: Latest News - Must read

UK confirms commitment to international students

A letter written by the Education and Universities Ministers of the United Kingdom outlines the government's commitment to international students. We outline and discuss the main points and what this means for you.

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From world renowned institutions and one of the top-rated higher education systems globally, to a dynamic student lifestyle and post-study work options, the UK remains very high on the list of desirable destinations for international students. With the advent of the coronavirus and the significant changes this has brought many international students have faced challenges in pursuing their study abroad ambitions. From uncertainty around travel restrictions and visa applications, to university entry requirements and start dates, students have felt uncertain as to what lies ahead.


The UK government has recognised this and moved to assure students with an outline of plans and commitments aimed at supporting those who wish to study in the country. This sentiment was clearly expressed in a letter drafted by the Education and Universities Ministers of the four countries of the United Kingdom (UK), namely England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.


Can I still apply for the 2020/2021 academic year?


Universities in the UK are accepting applications from international students, with the intention of a phased return to on-campus learning in 2020. In fact, a recent survey by Universities UK has indicated that 97 per cent of institutions remain committed to welcoming some students on campus for the autumn term, circumstances allowing. 83 per cent of universities said that they remained hopeful they would be able to provide in-person social opportunities as well.


This means that you still have the opportunity to study in a country which boasts four of the world’s top ten universities, and 18 of the world’s top 100 (QS World University Rankings 2021). You will also benefit from the high-quality research being conducted by universities in the country, with many at the forefront of research into Covid-19.


If you are looking for further information and advice on studying in the UK this year, the UK Council for International Student Affairs have a comprehensive range of resources that you can consult.

UK university application

Is there a new graduate route for students in the UK?


Yes, there is. A new graduate route has been designed by the UK government in order to enhance the offering for international students and make the process slightly easier. If you complete your undergraduate or postgraduate degree at a UK university or higher education provider, have a track record of compliance and a valid Tier 4 visa you will qualify to remain in the UK for up to two years after completing your studies in order to find work. This also applies to students present in the UK before 6th April 2021.


One of the questions you may be asking is what happens if you start your studies online and then transfer to on-campus learning at a later stage? Allowances have been made for this and thus you will not forfeit your right to post-study work options or employment opportunities in the UK. Students who have to start their studies online, especially in light of the coronavirus and travel restrictions, remain eligible on the Tier 4 visa scheme.


What measures have the government put in place to support students?


The UK government has made a commitment to ensure that processes, such as visa applications, are as flexible as they can be in order to aid students looking to study in the UK. The government has made a pledge to process Tier 4 visas as quickly as possible, providing assurance to students that such processes will not negatively impact or impede their study plans. The government does however recommend that if you want to study in the UK you should get started on your application as soon as possible and familiarise yourself with the visa and university entry requirements. Having all of your documents ready and waiting is key.


In addition, the government takes public health and the health of international students extremely seriously and thus is continually monitoring travel and border restrictions with the intention of providing timely and detailed advice on any changes. This extends to the offering of services, such as visa centres. 

UK student visa

What health advice and support are the government offering?


The UK government has re-iterated its intention to follow and adhere to public health and scientific guidance. The government has set up a dedicated website service for support and updates, when and if information or guidelines change.


As an international student you will be subject to the current quarantine measures in place to limit transmission and exposure to the virus. What does this mean?


  • You will need to provide your contact and accommodation information on arrival
  • You will need to self-isolate for 14 days after arriving in the country
  • You will have to wear a face covering/mask on public transport in England and Scotland
  • You are encouraged to wear a face covering/mask in small or enclosed spaces where social distancing is not possible.


The government has been working with universities to ensure that the process is well managed and that international students are given the necessary support when they arrive.


Will all of the changes affect the quality of the degree?


The short answer is no. It is true that admission requirements and modes of teaching and learning may look a bit different in 2020. However, the high standard of UK institutions and the international recognition of the degree you receive will not be affected. This remains the case even if you can’t travel to the UK for the start of your degree and need to start learning online first. Many UK universities have embarked on innovative and high-quality online learning programmes to provide uninterrupted academic learning for students. 


The UK government has worked closely with universities and the Office for Students in England, which as an independent higher education regulator, to make sure that students will receive and have access to high-quality education that will stand them in good stead with employers upon graduation. This quality assurance has also been conducted in Scotland with the Quality Assurance Agency and Education Scotland, and in Wales by collaboration with The Higher Education Funding Council for Wales. In fact, a graduate student survey conducted by Universities UK International (UUKi) found that 83 per cent of students who held a degree from a UK institution indicated that it helped them to find employment in many countries across the world.


So, if you have been considering applying to study in the UK, or have already done so, you can rest assured that there is a commitment from the government to education quality, student welfare, and positive graduate outcomes and opportunities. If you want to find out exactly what the government said, you can also read the full letter that is addressed to international students. Don’t forget to stay up to date with all developments and keep in close contact with your prospective university so that your study abroad journey remains on track.

International student UK


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