The brain drain: fee increases deter international students


NUS leads 'Fix International Student Fees' campaign to stop unfair year-on-year increases to fees for international students at UK universities

Greater increases in fees for International Students at universities in the United Kingdom have led to campaigns across the UK.

For years UK universities have relied on their strong reputations to attract the brightest minds from not just across the UK, but also the world. They are drawn by the archaic tradition of scholarship and the opportunity to join the masses of great thinkers who have graced the hallways of British institutions.

The growing price of attending such institutions has made these institutions decreasingly attractive.

While the news has been filled with the plight of UK students contesting the tripling of their fees, the experiences of international students have largely gone unnoticed.

Recently they have been bought to the fore after it emerged that fees for international students are increasing each year, without prior warning to these students. Additionally the fees are, in some cases, 4 times that what is paid by students from the UK.

More than half the UK universities now charge their UK students the maximum fee of £9000, after the increases were implemented in 2012. However international student fees are not limited by this cap, which means that universities are free to charge the amount they require.

International students are charged dependent on the course they undertake, with laboratory-based courses costing more than arts courses.

Those from outside the European Union wishing to study medicine at Kings College London will be required to pay £35000 for the next academic year.

The ever-increasing fees mean that study at British universities is limited to those international students that can afford to pay such prices up front.

Education for international students is based on wealth rather than talent, leading to a move away from UK universities as nurturing the greatest brains.

While it is necessary for international students to pay for their courses as it would not be possible for the government to subsidise everyone’s education, it is the constant increases to the university price, that are causing uproar.

Year on year increases to tuition fees, which exceed the rate of inflation, mean that students already enrolled have no choice but to pay the increased price, often compromising their university experience.

One student claimed that she could not afford to pay the raised fees but also could not drop out of university because she could not afford to get home.

A survey at Edinburgh University revealed that many international students cannot afford to return home during the vacations, or even to buy the resources necessary for their courses.

One undergraduate student at Durham University who hails from Kazakhstan said: “I came to Durham because everyone talks about the great student experience. However I can no longer afford to participate in anything they have to offer because the fees having increased by about £700 each year.”

This unfair predicament, which large numbers of international students find themselves in, has led to increasing numbers of campaigns from student unions at universities across the UK.

Sussex is one university that has campaigned against the high increases to tuition fees and after a survey of students it transpired that over 75% of students were not aware that the university could subject them to fees above the rate of inflation – the increase for the 2012/13 year was 12.3%.

Nearly 50% of respondents also said that they only found out about the increase within 2 weeks of the start of term.

As a result of this survey, an online petition and, negotiations with key individuals in the university, the university retracted the original increase and set an increase of five percent, seven percent lower than was initially stated.

The main campaign, led by the National Union of Students, is encouraging universities to implement a fixed fee system for international students.

The campaign – Fix International Student Fees – is working to abolish in-course fee increases. The universities of Edinburgh, Manchester and Nottingham have all responded positively to this campaign, leading the way for other universities to follow.

However the campaigners are worried that, as this is such a hidden issue, not enough pressure is being put on universities to respond which may lead to a move away from the UK as being the home of learning.

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