Working in conjunction with Universities UK International (UUKI) and the We Are Together campaign, Edvoy’s ‘In Conversation With…’ webinar brought international students together with some industry experts, who answered your questions about studying abroad during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Panelists included Vivienne Stern (Director, UUKI), Bobby Mehta (Chair, BUILA and Director of Global, University of Portsmouth) and Sadiq Basha (CEO and Founder, Edvoy). Here’s a summary of the key questions and answers from the event.
What is the UK government doing to assist international students?
- UK government is very supportive of international students.
- They have been working with Universities UK International (UUKI), agent networks, and students, to help international students at this time.
- They’ve reacted really quickly, which highlight the importance they place on international students.
What have universities done to help international students?
- They moved to remote teaching initially to make sure that the students that were already studying were able to complete their studies and completed that online.
- Assessments were changed from face-to-face or exams to online exams or online assessments, so all of those transitions were made really really quickly.
- Whilst that was all happening, universities changed their wellbeing and support systems to be able to do that remotely.
- Universities have taken the lessons that they’ve learned and the approaches that they’ve put in place back in March as they moved into lockdown, and they’ve carried those forward.
How will the six person indoor rule apply to universities?
- Following government guidance and putting the appropriate and necessary procedures in place in lecture theatres and university buildings so all rules can be followed.
How prepared are universities to teach some elements of their courses online if necessary?
- Students who are having very good active discussion sessions through online platforms where they can keep the debate that is needed as a student going, and interact both with fellow students and their staff.
- Universities have learned a lot since March and are well prepared to be teaching online.
What happens during freshers’ week - will that be online as well?
- A variety of things are going on to help students to have that opportunity to network as well, because it’s the social side of things that is also important. We’ve really emphasised that as much as we can using the virtual environment and the virtual technologies that we’ve got available.
- Some universities have started opening up with strict measures in place for social distancing. This means that as long as students put their masks on, use hand sanitiser, and follow the one-way navigation system, they can see their friends within that social distance.
If we study online will that be noted on my degree certificate?
- This academic year, the intention is that you would be studying an on-campus course, you’re starting in an online mode. It's part of the university on-campus experience, and therefore it’s expected that it would just be the normal degree certificate that you’d be receiving.
What will it mean for international students if another lockdown comes into play?
- All universities will have systems in place to support students to make sure that you've got access to the NHS. We know that universities have prepared for this, they’ve planned for it, universities have good relationships with local public health authorities to make sure that testing can take place.
Will coronavirus have implications for Sep/Jan 2021 and the November intake?
- The universities have been very flexible and a lot of universities have started running January intake - historically you only see 10-15% of UK universities running a few number of courses, now nearly 50-70% of universities are running a reasonably sized amount of courses in January intake.
- You should talk to your chosen university about your options.
- We know that COVID is a long-term problem, so it is possible that it will still be affecting teaching and learning in September 2021.
Will universities ask students to remain on campus over Christmas, and if so, with what provisions?
- Talk to your university to see what they’re saying. At the moment universities might be speculating about what might happen over Christmas, and it’s just about thinking about the various scenarios that might unfold in most cases.
- As of this moment, there’s no reason in most cases to think that it would be impossible to go home if you wanted to. However, it’s still too early to tell and things will change in the next couple of weeks and definitely in the next couple of months.
How can international students best prepare for life in the UK with coronavirus?
- It is not going to be that different from where you’re coming from, this is not a UK centric issue, it’s a global issue.
- There are things all students will really need to be aware of, so for example, most students, including international students in the past, might've had expectations around supplementing their income whilst they’re studying with a part-time job. A lot of those jobs are not there at the moment, so students need to think about supporting themselves in other ways.
Will tuition fees lower as a result of some of the courses being online?
- This is unlikely. You’ll still have access to the usual books, journals, and resources, so nothing is really changing, it’s just that the mode of delivery is slightly changing. and a lot of universities are using the blended and connected models so that you still will get into labs and workshops, though in a more socially distant way.
What can universities do to help when a student gets seriously ill?
- Universities will have procedures in place that they’ll make you aware of, so you will know who to call if you’re ill, whether you think it’s COVID or something else.
- Unis are also looking at measures to support students going through these steps, so if they are in isolation, how can we support them, what does the student need, and there’s helplines available for students to contact, so at no point in time will a student just be on their own.
- In the spring when we had the first wave, our hospitals were under a lot of pressure. Now, all of our hospitals have COVID and non-COVID pathways, so if you have another medical condition, the NHS is much better equipped than it was the first time around to deal with people who have to continue to use the NHS for things that have nothing to do with COVID.
What about visa applications during COVID-19? Can I get a visa now for October intake?
- Our understanding is that the visa processing centres are seeing higher demand at the moment, but there’s no particular delays, they’re offering more and more services, so things are working.
- Talk to your university about what your options are for October intake.