Study abroad: What you need to know about studying in the UK right now
It has been a turbulent and confusing time for students who aspire to study abroad at the universities of their dreams.
It has been a turbulent and confusing time for students who aspire to study abroad at the universities of their dreams. For over a year now, governments and universities across the globe have been working together to build bridges to enable student mobility. With such efforts, the outlook for students to study at global destinations has definitely improved.
The UK has been at the forefront of such initiatives. Already known for its world class institutions, research opportunities, wide range of courses, scholarships and one-year postgraduate programmes, the UK has been constantly updating its rules and regulations during the pandemic to curate a clear path for international students. Several institutions in the UK have introduced new scholarships and bursaries while continuously delivering high-quality education online. Coupled with the new Graduate Route, it is no surprise that the UK remains one of the most popular study abroad destinations for Indians, who form one of the largest groups of the UK’s international student community.
According to recent data released by the UK Home Office over 56,000 Indian students were issued study visas between April 2020 and March 2021, which translated to a 13% rise over the previous year. In fact, according to statistics released by the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) there has been a 30% increase in undergraduate applications and a 4% increase in applications overall from India as of June 2021, compared to last year.
To ensure the safety and wellbeing of all students, universities in the UK have been working closely with the national and local governments to ensure student needs are met. And, as the situation continues to evolve, all aspirants and new students should keep an eye out for changes in rules and procedures - both in the UK and India, which may affect international travel and a students’ ability to reach their campus in the UK.
Here are some important things to note for students who plan to pursue higher education in the UK:
The Graduate Route
The newly launched (July 2021) Graduate Route (GR) makes the exciting prospect of working in the UK after the end of a student’s academic programme a reality. It is an amazing opportunity for international students who would like to step into full time employment in the UK post their education. The GR enables students to work, or look for work in the UK, at any skill level for two years (this rises to three years for PhD graduates).
All international students who successfully complete a graduate level degree or higher at a compliant higher education institute in the UK will be able to apply. To make it as easy as possible, it also includes students who have been studying online in their home country if they meet all the requirements.
Action on vaccinations
Over the past few weeks, the states of Maharashtra, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala and Karnataka have recognised the need to provide vaccinations to students planning to study overseas on a priority basis. In some states, students with verified documents of admission can contact officials of their respective districts to get a vaccination. Some also plan to provide access to the second dose within six weeks of the first, radically reducing the gap between doses, which is usually 12-16 weeks. However, regardless of vaccination status, students entering the UK from an ‘amber’ list nation such as India will need to have a negative COVID-19 test report before travelling, quarantine for 10 days on arrival and take a COVID-19 test on Day 2 and Day 8 of their quarantine.
Though it is wise to get vaccinated as soon as possible, the UK has not made it mandatory for people entering the country to be vaccinated. In fact, the UK has taken measures to make international student vaccination a priority. Anybody aged 18 or over in the UK is eligible for the Covid19 vaccination free of charge, regardless of their nationality or immigration status.
All things visas
While several countries have made concessions around student visa norms, the UK has offered visa extensions to ensure international students can either continue their existing courses or start new ones through a blended learning model for the 2020-21 year. It is this kind of support that has been attracting an increasing number of higher education students from India over the past few years. With a visa issue rate at 96% for Indian students, the UK is well above the global average.
Understanding travel traffic lights
As India now features in the amber list, travellers from India will no longer need to pay for and enter mandatory hotel quarantine. This will reduce the travel expense of the students and give them flexibility to quarantine at their place of residence or on campus. Since the travel and quarantine rules are subject to change, it is best that students stay in touch with their university for support.
The advice on travelling to the UK varies between the four nations – England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. So, all students who intend to start their studies on campus in the UK should ensure they are up to date with the latest rules and regulations.
(Author Barbara Wickham OBE is Director, British Council India. The views expressed here are personal.)