The coronavirus outbreak and the subsequent restrictions have put on hold the plans of many Indians hoping to study abroad. Now almost a year into the pandemic, many overseas universities have taken steps to ensure the continued enrollment of international students, of whom Indians form a very large contingent.
Foreign universities have replaced face to face classrooms with online instructions, considering social distancing norms. That has not deterred student’s educational advisers say. Several countries interested in attracting international students have changed policies related to visa applications, visas and fees for post-study work, and universities have taken their own measures. These policies, however, vary widely from country to country
In our experience, right when the lockdown was announced, most students were prepared to defer their education to join the physical classes. More and more students have gradually realized that online classes are the only viable option for them, said Piyush Kumar, regional director for IDP education in South Asia.
Safety measures For COVID-19
Canada the UK have re-opened their borders to foreign students after months of lockdown. The Canadian Government granted international students entry n October 20, irrespective of where they are travelling from or when their study permit was approved. The government has also identified designated learning institutes or DLIs for the safety of students with a ‘Covid-19 readiness plan in place’.
A statement from colleges and institutes Canada (CICan), which represents Canada’s officially supported colleges, said this announcement is an extremely positive development for colleges and institutes across Canada and reflects our joint efforts to prepare and plan for the safe arrival of international students. One of the top five destinations for Indian students in Canada.
Other measures exist that don’t specially target international students. With an investment of approximately $9 billion” for Canadian students only, Canada announced the Canada Emergency Student Benefits Plan.
Bursaries and Funds
To support students who are under financial stress, some universities have set up separate funds or bursaries. The University of Guelph in Canada is creating an “International Tuition Assistance Bursary, a need-based program that will provide international students with difficulty paying their tuition up to $2500 (1,250 per semester), the statement said.
For students who are unable to enter the campus due to restrictions in Australia or their home country, the University of Adelaide provides a 20 per cent study fee rebate and Deakin University provides an international student relief fund along with assistance from the state government in Victoria.
Curtin University announced that by providing an Access Support Scholarship of AUD $1,500, it will support international students who are unable to arrive in Australia in time for the beginning of the semester.
However, the level of support varies vary widely across nations and universities. University College London said that even though classes have moved online, students will not be granted any concessions.
The UK Department of Education has made it clear that if you receive adequate online learning and support, you should not except any refund, and we are confident that we have been able to deliver this in most instances. As such on the basis of some of our teaching and evaluation having moved online, we are currently not offering tuition fee refunds or reductions, “ a statement said on its website.
Countries have also relaxed international students’ visa regulations. For more than 20 hours a week the Canadian government removed restrictions on students working, but the change applies only to students who work in an essential service.
The international borders of Australia remain closed, but it has helped relax the student and poststudy work visa policies. The online offshore study for international students will also count towards poststudy work rights, as per the latest policy. It enables students in Australia to undertake a minimum of six months of face-to-face study to qualify.
The Australian government has begun processing visa applications for international students, and many have started online classes as well. In anticipation of the opening of the borders by January, the number of visa applicants is very high, said Manoj P, founder and CEO of Global Educational Consultants.
In addition, for international students, the Australian government is temporarily waiving the visa application fee. In the case of essential services, the government has also allowed students to work more than 40 hours a week.
A new and simplified pointsbased student visa route for international students has been announced by the UK government. “In order to get a visa, students will require a total of 70 points out of 100. If they can substantiate that they have an offer from a recognized educational institution, speak English and are able to financially support their studies in the UK, they will achieve the required points,” Manoj P explained.
In line with the new policy, the initial plans to reopen the international borders in January 2021 have been advanced to October 5.
We recognize that some overseas students choose to defer their entry into courses in the United Kingdom until the spring semester of 2021 due to coronavirus. Students will now be able to benefit from the new streamlined process by introducing these new routes while still giving sponsors time to adapt after their autumn intake, Kevin Foster, UK immigration minister, said in a statement.
In the case of the most favoured destination, the USA, the situation is less promising. The visa application process has also been hit, as the USA tops the COVID positive cases chart in the world. Kumar explained, “Some of the finest educational institutions are in the US but the current visa policies are not very encouraging.” “There are many students with valid offers and a form of I20. These students face a lot of difficulties getting dates for visa interviews.