How does coronavirus affect international students?

Meilanie Darmawan discusses the implications of Coronavirus to international students.

Meilanie Darmawan
4th April 2020
Newcastle University students have not been spared the uncertainty of what next year may bring. The University has over 5000 international students from over 120 countries.
International students make up around 20% of university students in the country, with the majority of them coming from East Asian countries such as China, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan—all of which were heavily affected by COVID19. The biggest challenge in the discussion is to consider a wide range of varying aspects.

Longer period for lockdown and travel restriction

Medics have predicted the spread of coronavirus could last up to six months in the UK. On 16 March, Boris Johnson told the public to stop unnecessary travel and contact. A later protocol was announced on 30 March, instructing the public to carry out social distancing to reduce the transmission of coronavirus. Restaurants, bars and pubs were temporarily closed to further enforce self-isolation.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office notes that any countries may restrict travel without notice. They are advising students wishing to go back home to find travel options before airplanes start cancelling flights.

Capping university admissions for students

In an attempt to aid the loss many universities across the country are making, the government has suggested limiting the number of students each university can take in for the next year. Students who still have their application in process are set to have their choices restricted, as well other students may not be able to attend the university in which they have been offered a place to.

English language examinations

Many prospective international and EU students are required to take an English Language Test to be admitted to degree programmes in the United Kingdom. Students are to demonstrate their level of understanding in English with qualifications such as IELTS or TOEFL.

The test is separated into four sections (speaking, writing, listening and reading), all of which are conducted in person. However, in response to the coronavirus, IELTS and TOEFL have temporarily suspended their tests in many countries. They have also encouraged institutions to come up with an alternative test which students can take safely online or at home. 

Newcastle University has addressed the concerns of international students in their official website. They pointing out that the University is working closely with IELTS as well as TOEFL to avoid any further delay for the English tests. Additionally, they will be thoroughly reviewing the University’s English Language Policy, which all applicants are expected to wait for further information. As for international students who have applied for the pre-sessional English course in Newcastle University, they have assured that the course will run as planned.

Experts have expressed their concerns regarding the upcoming year, noting that UK universities would not be able to go back to normal as quickly as next year. In the minimum, they are expecting universities to set lower tuition fees to encourage students to enrol.

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