How are international students at Strathclyde coping with Covid-19? A question the university management seems NOT to have asked themselves during this time. We have created a petition to raise awareness about the exceptional circumstances international students are experiencing (http://chng.it/xqKKx2QK).
International students have had to travel back to their home countries, which are struck horribly by the virus with people struggling through an economical downfall and political instability making paying the high fees (currently between £15k and £21k per year for undergraduate courses) they are subject to, a struggle. Comments received under the petition discuss how some students feel as though they are an “extra burden” to their families during this time and some even believe that it is “illogical” for the university not to lower their fees. We found that students are willing to take gap years and even transfers if the university does not take appropriate action.
Experiences of three international students as follows:
Khizer Ahmed – “I left the UK when Corona Virus cases were less than a hundred in Scotland and under fifty in Pakistan. Today, as I write this piece, my country is 5th in the world for the most active Covid-19 cases and is in turmoil. Yet, I’m expected to travel back to Glasgow for the resumption of university sometime later this year.
Having witnessed cases in my own family I can’t stress upon how much of a depressing environment the disease creates despite having the presence of all members of the family. What happens when I go abroad? How do my parents deal with the anxiety? How do I deal with it being away from home and maintaining social distance from my friends? I would be trapped in a box. All this and then I have to pay thousands of pounds for this experience. If I do end up catching the disease my parents would be pinched in between thoughts relating to me and the problems back home? So, someone enlighten me on how spending my 3rd year at Strathclyde is a good idea?”
Danielle Araujo – “I made the difficult decision of being away from my family this summer because I did not want to risk travelling and facing long quarantine periods on my way home and coming back into the UK. Additionally, being on furlough has also left me in an awkward financial position as most of my limited income goes towards paying for my rent for the summer. I want the university to lower the tuition fees for international students in the coming academic year seeing as though we will, understandably, not be receiving an experience as rewarding as previous years. Also, seeing how my department handled online classes at the end of last semester has made me question why my sponsors paid a hefty fee for simply a PowerPoint to be uploaded online.”
Dzhamilya Karina – “I am currently an undergraduate student at the Strathclyde Business School. Since the beginning of the pandemic I have faced a lot of challenges and made decisions that would impact my present and future life. At the moment I am extremely stressed out about the current state of my higher education as the University did not provide enough details on how the first semester of the next academic year will be managed. I, personally, do not understand whether I should stay in Scotland, travel back to Kazakhstan, or take a gap year to avoid the poor-quality digital experience that I’ve encountered in the second semester of this year. A 5-week period of uncertainty is not suitable for international students who pay over £15,000 each year. So far, instead of cooperating with their international students, the university has only increased our fees not taking into consideration the factors of floating exchange rates, poor healthcare systems and political instability in non-European regions. Higher education is a new trend in the services industry and international students are one of the main generators of income for the organizations associated with it. Last year, both RUK and Non-EU students contributed over £47m in the university income which was equal to 14.3% of the total income (University of Strathclyde, 2019), and I believe that the services we are receiving are not up to the high standards we are expecting and paying for.”
A possible solution to all these problems is lowering the tuition fee of existing and incoming international students to match the student experience. Additionally, the university has to provide an option of online-only learning (upcoming academic year) for students that are not willing to travel; along with a significantly lower tuition fee.