Tier 4 and Post Study Work VISA Concessions Plus Commitment to In-Person Teaching Make the UK an Enticing Prospect for International Students Skip to main content

New developments in the UK from both institutions and the Government look set to incentivise international students considering their study abroad actions. From Tier 4 VISA concessions to an impressive 97%  of UK institutions intending to deliver in-person teaching this Autumn, we outline the top reasons the UK is becoming an ever more attractive study destination.  

UK Government

The Home Office has announced considerable new concessions for international students in terms of both the Tier 4 Study VISA and the Post Student Work VISA. These announcements mean that not only are students reassured of their ability to enter and remain in the UK for the duration of their studies, they also represent awareness for the potential obstacles facing prospective students and a willingness to be flexible to their needs during the current pandemic. 

Full details of the Tier 4 Visa Concessions can be found in the Home Office document here.

Among the changes most important to prospective international students is confirmation from the UK Home Office that Tier 4 sponsors are permitted to sponsor international students for blended learning (starting online or taught partially online) for the 2020-2021 academic year. International students who may have been concerned that online course delivery would jeopardise their VISA status now have solid reassurance that their position in the UK is secure for the duration of their studies.  

In more enticing news for prospective students, the government has also confirmed that the Post Study Work VISA will be available for international students starting courses this year providing they arrive in the UK before April 2021. This includes students who are taking courses that are blended with a mixture of online and in-person teaching.  

These latest steps from the UK government acknowledge the far-reaching benefits of putting in place policies that reflect the needs of prospective students. Where governments have worked with their country’s higher education institutions to support international students, such as the new arrangement between New Zealand and China that allows direct flights for international students, it reflects positively in how international students perceive the country. We are hopeful that these steps from the UK government, as well as similar efforts being made by governments globally, represent an ongoing trend towards removing obstacles for incoming international students that will position these countries as inviting and supportive study destinations.  

UK Institutions 

Over the past few months we have had frequent cause to feel pride at the innovation, sensitivity, and determination of our institutional partners all over the world as they work to accommodate international students’ needs during this most difficult period. 

UK institutions have consistently stepped up to the challenges of the current health crisis, listening to both experts from the sector and their own students in order to take steps that ensure the health, safety, and best interest of all their students. 

Each UK institution has taken steps to ensure they are able to support students in the way that best meets their own unique set of circumstances. This phenomenal effort is now paying dividends and continues to place the UK as a leading higher education destination. 

Yet more good news emerged today with the Universities UK survey of 92 UK institutions finding that 97% of UK Universities are offering in-person teaching this Autumn, along with a plethora of steps that ensure international students have a safe but fully immersive study abroad experience in the UK.   

Across the UK, the Universities UK survey found that:  

  • - 95% of universities aim to deliver teaching using a mixture of online and in-person services and 5% are planning to deliver these services online

  • - 87% of universities are planning to provide in-person sporting, fitness and wellbeing activities for students in autumn 2020

  • - The full range of student support will be on offer at UK universities – including mental health support; careers advice; study skills

  • - 82% of universities are working with bars and cafes in the local community to help ensure a safe but enjoyable university experience for students

This latest survey demonstrates yet again that universities in the UK are far ahead in their planning and have taken sweeping measures to ensure that international students are safe while studying in the UK and that they benefit from a fully immersive study abroad experience.   

Vivienne Stern, Director of Universities UK International (UUKi) said of the survey's findings: “We know international applicants want certainty about how things will work if they study in the UK this autumn, so it is great that arrangements are starting to fall into place. We’re delighted that the Home Office has confirmed that the Graduate Route will be open to anyone starting a UK degree this autumn, even if those students don’t travel to the UK at the start of the course. However, our survey shows that almost all universities are ready to welcome students on campus in the UK, and will make sure that in-person teaching is available where it is safe to do so. We hope this gives applicants the confidence to make progress with their plans to join us this autumn.”

Responding to the latest visa announcements from the UK government, Rachel Sandison, Vice Principle of External Relations at the University of Glasgow and member of the IDP Connect Strategic Advisory Panel commented: “The UK HE sector is delighted at this week’s double announcement that changes to UKVI policy will mean that we can sponsor new students who begin studies ‘through distance or blended learning’ in 20/21, and that international students can still access the Graduate Post Study Route providing they are in the UK by 6 April 2021 to complete the final semester of their studies. This is excellent news for international students and hopefully further reassures that the UK is open for business. Universities across the UK are preparing for the next semester and ensuring that as much face to face activity can take place on-campus as is safe to do so. This means we are treating the health and well-being of every member of our community as paramount, whilst still ensuring a high-quality learning and living experience.” 

Similar sentiment was expressed by another leading voice from the sector Bobby Mehta, Chair of BUILA and member of the IDP Connect International Advisory Panel, who stated: “The Universities UK survey results are not surprising. Most UK universities will try to provide in-person teaching, but much depends on what happens in the coming months with COVID –19. Universities across the UK are looking into a variety of steps and measures to ensure the best possible learning experience while putting the health and safety of students and staff at the forefront of any decisions they make.  

We welcome the findings of the survey and I think it gives much-needed clarity for both current and prospective students. As recent IDP Connect surveys have shown, students are looking for that clarity of message. Hopefully, this latest announcement will further reassure prospective international students and give them the confidence to follow through with their study plans in the UK this autumn.  

Regarding the latest Home Office announcements, they show us the commitment the government has to supporting international students and working with the sector.  This should also provide further reassurance to both international students and organisations such as IDP Connect that international students will receive the support they need from the UK.” 

This combined effort from both the UK Government and UK institutions is providing a higher education offering that is not just inviting, but enticing to prospective international students all over the world.  

We look forward to seeing these new steps bear fruit for UK higher education in the coming weeks, months and years to ensure a bright looking future ahead for international students in the UK. 

We are #InThisTogether

Ella Grimwade
Ella Grimwade17 June 2020

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