British politics is a complicated and often contradictory subject. Without context and some simple guidance it can be difficult to understand.
Student lives in the UK are often entwined with the goings on within the UK Parliament. Many key policies impact everything from how expensive your fees are, right through to the classes that are offered.
Here, I offer a brief insight into the key elements of the British political machine, and how they impact you as a student here in the UK.
The Annual Statement and Budget
Every year, the British Chancellor of the Exchequer, the cabinet member in charge of policy about the economy, makes a statement.
This public address to the House of Commons (the elected part of the UK Parliament) outlines the state of the economy and lays out any government proposals for taxation and spending.
This can affect us all in lots of ways.
Although students aren’t usually affected by changes to income tax, the amount of VAT we pay on goods and services can have a huge impact on budgeting.
Also, the policies implemented by the government can impact the exchange rate, which alters how much money you’re being sent from overseas is worth.
The rights of students are regulated by the UK government too. Often when students protest, it is their local MPs that they petition to help.
Government members have the authority to speak to universities on their behalf, and can petition to change the law to enshrine rights too.
The regulations that manage how UK universities operate are also set by the government. This includes health and safety, freedoms to protest, freedom of speech and a right to a fair trial.
During the coronavirus pandemic, the government has unveiled unparalleled restrictions on the freedoms of individuals. This is to protect the vulnerable and stop the spread of the virus.
They have also set out important guidelines for students, this includes:
The majority of lectures should take place online.
All public spaces must be COVID-secure.
By Christmas have set out guidelines for students to be tested before going home for the winter break.
These decisions, made by the government, have a day to day impact on how students live their lives.
The National Health Service
The UK has a National Health Service (NHS), which provides care to the population for free. It is paid for through taxation and the amount it receives in spending is decided by the government.
International students from the EU usually have a European Health Insurance Card which entitles them to free NHS treatment.
Students studying from outside the EU on courses of less than 6 months are required to take out private health insurance. Students staying longer than 6 months are required to pay an Immigration Health Surcharge to benefit from free NHS treatment. This is paid as part of your Visa application and costs £150 per year.
If you want to learn how you as an international student can access the NHS, read this.
The decisions the government makes about the NHS, how it’s run and how its services are provided have a direct impact on students nationwide.