Is the cost of living in the UK too expensive for international students? That’s what one survey suggests.
A report by UCAS, which surveyed over 500 international applicants to UK universities in 2021, found that 88% of international applicants continue to see the UK as a positive or very positive place to study.
However, when asked about specific barriers that would put them off from studying in the UK, 69% of applicants surveyed identified high tuition fees and living costs as a top concern.
“This is felt particularly strongly in Central and Eastern Europe and Western Europe, with 80% and 72% of applicants respectively identifying this as a primary barrier,” read the report.
What do international students think of the UK?
Surveys conducted by UCAS in 2020 and 2021 found that top factors motivating students to study in the UK include the prestige of UK universities (47%), the desire to live in the UK (45%), teaching quality (43% overall – with 36% of undergraduates and 49% of postgraduates indicating this as priority).
The report adds that applicants would like more information on matters such as accommodation, funding, employment opportunities and completing the student visa application. “At least 30% of applicants across all routes found choosing accommodation and seeking funding advice to be challenging,” said the report.
Cost of living in the UK: Expert suggestions
Sector experts, advocates and associations have made several suggestions regarding international students’ perception of the high cost of living in the UK and tuition. This includes lowering visa and health surcharges, widening scholarships opportunities for international students and allowing students to apply for a loan scheme.
“Despite its popularity, the UK is perceived as expensive by international students and that’s not just on tuition fees, but aspects of costs such as visas, the immigration health surcharge and living costs,” said Gwion Sims, the head of International Recruitment at the University of York, was quoted saying by The PIE News.
He believes institutions should be more customer-focused and better at responding to the specific needs of international students. He added that international departments need to work closely with other parts of universities to meet the needs of international students and argue for more dedicated resources to create a personalised international experience.
Others have suggested that universities should widen their scholarships opportunities for international students to help lower the cost of living in the UK.
“I would also love to see an expansion of something like the Chevening scheme in future as well so it’s tied to those country priorities in the international education strategy,” Sims was quoted saying.
National Indian Students and Alumni Union UK founder and chairperson Sanam Arora suggested a loan scheme for students. She said the scheme could allow international banks to cooperate with Indian banks, link post-study work visas to the employment opportunities that universities offer, and create a mutual fund that supports international students in the long term.