The recent UKCISA 2021 conference was the common platform for Higher Education stakeholders to receive updates and news about the next moves of the UK and its higher education institutions in terms of offering education to international students.
During the conference, the steps and efforts taken by different stakeholders highlighted the flexibility and quality of education, which made the UK one of the attractive choices for international students.
Anne Marie Graham, the Chief Executive of UKCISA, in her opening statements, praised UK’s higher education community as “a unique community committed to a positive experience for international students… [which] is more important than ever”. Koen Lamberts, Chair at UKCISA Board, backed Graham’s statement, highlighting that “we work collaboratively towards realising that”.
During the virtual conference, Kevin Foster, the UK Minister for Immigration, revealed the extension of the deadline for the rule that required international students to be in the UK by September.
Foster revealed that the new COVID concessions for visa rules were extended till 6th April 2022 for the next intake, considering the current health situation around the world.
With the launch of the new graduate route, the UK’s International Education Champion, Sir Steve Smith, took the opportunity to highlight the factors that he believes makes the UK a top destination for international students to pursue higher education.
Among some of the highlighted factors, Sir Smith commented on the UK’s flexibility in offering around 50,000 undergraduate and postgraduate courses, as well as the quality of education imparted by most universities, which is highly regarded all across the globe. He also pointed out the global reputation of the research conducted in UK Universities.
Sir Smith also pointed out that, depending on the league table, UK proudly boasts of four universities in the top 10, while 17 are included in the top 100 and 29 in the top 200. Additionally, viewing the UK as an exceptionally tolerant multicultural society that welcomes international students with open arms is crucial too, he added.
While the UK’s flexibility and quality of education were being praised, speakers raised concerns over the challenges faced by international students in the UK. A session focusing on BREXIT allowed panellists to shed light on ERASMUS 2021-27 as well as the possible obstacles faced with EU/UK mobility.
Erasmus Student Network UK, Iona Murdoch, highlighted the importance of making international students aware of the mobility opportunities alternative to Erasmus. She highlighted that to spread awareness of the available opportunities, campaigning will be done.
She pointed that they have been working with different countries in spreading awareness of the local sections within the UK’s network. However, she also emphasised the importance of replacing the Erasmuc+ programme, a name popular among aspiring study abroad students.
While it is difficult to make the most of the schemes that students have in the different areas of the UK, Murdoch also highlighted their efforts to encourage universities in spreading awareness of the different opportunities available along with other steps that can attract more students.
During the conference, the role of technology in the UK international education sector was also discussed. Aaron Powell, the Chief Digital and Data Officer and Managing Director at UCAS spoke about Myriad.
Myriad is the new multi-lingual mobile app by UCAS to support international students, their agents and advisors to apply for admission to postgraduate courses in the UK. Highlighting the difficulties faced by students in accessing information regarding courses, admission processes, scholarships and other financial aids as well as accommodation and employability opportunities on graduation and while studying, Myriad has been designed to answer all the questions international students may have.
The UCAS Myriad app will help international students to learn everything they need to know when planning their studies in the UK. Additionally, the Myriad app will also list down all the postgraduate courses offered in the UK as well as match international students with the scholarship opportunities available for them specifically. Moreover, students will also be able to book accommodation, as the app offers over 300,000 rooms, while also offering a variety of routes for jobs and part-time work opportunities as well.