The Covid-19 pandemic has brought about an incredible amount of uncertainty around the short and medium term outlook for education (not least for international students wishing to study at university in the UK).
However, you should not feel you have to put all your plans on hold. Over the coming weeks we expect more information from the UK Government on visas for international students as well as greater clarity from universities about how courses will be delivered over the coming academic year.
Although it's not yet possible to provide firm answers on many of the questions students have, here's what we know so far:
Will courses be delivered online or in person next academic year?
Most universities are currently planning for several scenarios. Whilst it's highly optimistic to expect campuses to open as usual this September, universities are working on the assumption that this may happen. At the same time all universities are preparing to be able to deliver their courses online (at least for the first term of the new academic year). This meas that, even if campuses open up in September, universities are well prepared to provide online learning to students who are unable to (or chose not to) travel to the UK.
How are international student visas affected by Covid-19?
The UK Government published its latest advice on student visas on the 20th April. This advice provides some flexibility for students and universities (e.g. around language testing, visa renewal, course attendance and online study under a tier 4 visa). However, the guidance does not answer many of the pressing questions that students have about tier 4 visas for September (and that's not to mention the impracticality of getting a visa with visa centres around the world closed).
Having said that, the Government recognises the urgent need for clarity on visas for international student and it will be publishing further guidance in due course.
The uncertainty and rapidly changing regutalions around visas means that it is more important than ever to get up-to-date advice from trusted agents. Our agents are registered with the OISC and are able to provide the latest advice, so get in touch if you'd like to arrange a discussion.
Should I defer and start my course next year?
This is a difficult one. Many students have decided that they wish to start their studies this year and relocate to the UK as soon as international mobility allows. This is particularly the case for EU students who will treated as 'home' students rather than 'international' students until the end of the year.
However, many international students feel that starting in January or March will suit them better, and although this usually means they will have a more limited choice of courses, we may see more universities opening up the option for later starts. Some students are considering delaying their course by a full year in the hope that 'normality' (or at least a large degree of it) will have returned.
Ultimately it is a decision for individual students to make, taking into account their own circumstances. But, our advisors are here to help you decide so get in touch if you would like to discuss your options.
I can't take my IELTS exam - how will that affect my university application?
As universities are trusted bodies with a track record of complying with the rules of UK Visa and Immigration agency (UKVI) they will be allowed some flexibility to assess students' English language ability independently where students are unable to sit an IELTS test due to Covid-19 restrictions.
Currently pathway or foundation courses (which are a level below 'higher education') still require students to demonstrate English language ability by sitting IELTS. This is becoming problematic for some students (especially where testing centres are closed) and pathways providers are engaged in discussion with the UKVI to explore alternative solutions.