Half of non-EU students in UK feel “unwelcome”

12 February, 2014

More than half of non-EU international students studying in the UK have said they feel the UK government is not welcoming or not at all welcoming towards them, according to a survey carried out by the National Union of Students (NUS) in January this year.

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The survey gained 3,135 responses from international students who were asked how they felt about the UK government and individual policies in the Immigration Bill and the proposed NHS levy.

The figures for international students who said the UK government was not welcoming or not at all welcoming were highest for students from Japan (64.5 per cent), Nigeria (62.8 per cent) and India (62 per cent), and also for PhD students (65.8 per cent) and those with dependents (57.5 per cent).

Almost a fifth of non-EU students would not recommend the UK as a place to study for a friend or relative, with this figure being higher for students from Pakistan (38.5 per cent), Nigeria (36.8 per cent) and India (34.5 per cent).

When asked if a UK£150 (US$248) NHS charge with a visa per year of study would impact their ability to study, 74 per cent of non-EU students said it would make it more difficult to study or that it would be impossible to study, while 52 per cent of EU/EEA students gave the same answer. (Please note that in the report, there is no data breakdown between “more difficult to study” and “impossible to study”.)

For postgraduate students, 82.6 per cent said the NHS levy would make it more difficult or impossible to study. For 13 per cent of the postgraduate students surveyed, the levy would mean they would not be able to study in the UK.

Of the proposed landlord status checks, 40.4 per cent of international students said that it would negatively impact their decision to study in the UK, while 28 per cent also said that their international background has had either a negative or very negative impact on their ability to find accommodation.

Back in September 2013, Daniel Stevens, International Students’ Officer at NUS, said in an opinion piece for STM that the upfront charge for the NHS was “yet another detrimental policy towards international students” and added, “International students contribute to the NHS through taxation and through paying extortionate visa fees prior to entering the UK.”

On the proposed landlord checks, Stevens said, “You could easily envision a situation arising where a small landlord might only check the status of students with ‘un-British’ sounding names, or a situation where house hunting students drop the international student from their group because they can’t get the necessary documentation in time. Worse still, these students are likely to turn to the dangerous and illegal subsector of non-law-abiding landlords.”

Of the NUS survey, Stevens stated, “Many international students feel unwelcome in the UK as a result of the government’s hostile and overzealous policies. The immigration bill’s proposals are set to create new barriers to international students at the same time that our global competitors are welcoming them with open arms.

“Not only are the proposals unwelcoming, they are also unworkable, expensive and discriminatory. Given the huge contribution international students make to the UK, they also stand to be self-defeating, sending a message that the UK is closed for business.”

Recent data from the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) showed that although numbers of non-EU students enrolled in higher education institutions (HEIs) in the UK has declined, it was only by one per cent, from 302,680 in 2011/12 to 299,970 in 2012/13, as recently reported. The biggest source market declines were from India, by 25 per cent, and Pakistan, 19 per cent.

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