Starting study in the UK as an international student in the academic year 2020/2021, might be a bit more overwhelming than it might have been before. This, only due to the current situation with COVID-19, and the issues that come with it. But, all in all, higher education has largely been continuing its course in the past few months, although through distance learning.
If you have been admitted to study in the UK, and are planning to begin your studies this upcoming academic year, there are some things you should know and keep in mind. Below, we will elaborate some of the most important things international students in the UK should keep in mind before starting their new journey, especially while COVID-19 is still present.
Here’s what you should know as a first-time UK international student:
1. EU Students Will Lose Home Fees Starting Next Academic Year… but You Are Safe
When Brexit reaches full effect, in 2021, students from the EU, other EEA, and Swiss nationals will not be eligible for home fee status in the UK, as they were before Brexit. Additionally, these students will not be eligible for undergraduate, postgraduate and advanced learning financial support from Student Finance England either.
This, however, will not be affecting the EU, other EEA, and Swiss nationals who commence study in the 2020/2021 academic year. If you begin your studies in 2020, you will be eligible for home fees, not only this academic year but other years as well. So, basically, you can be considered one of the lucky generation students, when it comes to home fee status.
2. This Academic Year Might Not Be ‘Normal’ and It Is Still Okay
Now that the whole world has adapted to what most people like to call “a new reality,” there are things that should be kept in mind in times like this. For one, the recommended safety measures such as frequent hand hygiene, respiratory hygiene, social distancing, and the use of masks. This is to protect yourself and your community from the possible spread of coronavirus infection.
This academic year might not be exactly what you thought it would be, but you will still get to enjoy it and receive your UK qualifications. You might have to be more cautious than the students before you when it comes to health safety, but this is something the whole world is going through at the moment.
3. You Will Still Be Able to Make Friends Even Despite COVID-19
Do not let the fear of infection stop you from making friends as an international student. Of course, you will have to follow the regulations and be extremely careful, but you can still create valuable friendships. Whether you are in the UK or studying through distance learning programmes, you will still be able to make friends.
Keep in mind that the online world is one of the most powerful tools when it comes to building bridges. And now that basically the whole world has ‘moved’ online, making friends is not impossible. Talk to people from your programme, share experiences and challenges, ask for help or offer help. There are so many ways to interact in a safe manner.
4. Your Visa Only Allows You to Work a Limited Number of Hours
If you are moving to the UK on a student visa, and you want to work during your studies in order to financially support yourself, you should know that your student visa only allows you to work for a specific number of hours. As a Tier 4 visa holder, you will have to abide by maximum weekly work hours in term time. For example, non-EU/EEA students are only allowed to work up to 20 hours per week while studying.
In case you work irregular hours, you will have to keep track of how many hours you are working in order not to exceed the limit. The limit depends on the type of Tier 4 sponsor you have. Typically, you can work full time during the period before your course begins as well as after finishing your course, including during the holidays. EU students are currently allowed to work as much as they want, something that might change when Brexit reaches full effect.
5. It Is Better If You Open a Bank Account in the UK
If you are staying in the UK for longer periods of time (months), then it is better if you open a bank account in the UK, instead of using the one from your home country. This is because you will need to make numerous payments, receive a salary, or simply keep your money in a safe place without having to go through international currency charges.
If you want to open a bank account when you arrive in the UK, you will need to provide documents like your visa, a valid passport, proof of address, student status, and income. Keep in mind that some banks might offer student accounts, although not all of them offer student accounts for international students. However, there is still the option of a regular account.
6. You Might Be Eligible for the UK Post-Study Work Visa
The UK post-study work visa, also known as the new Graduate Route, allows international students to stay in the UK after they finish their studies for up to two years and seek employment. This new Graduate Route will be launched in the summer of 2021, and students who already have a Tier 4 visa when it is launched might be able to benefit from it.
International students entering the UK in the 2020/2021 academic year, or later on, will be able to apply for the post-study work visa in the UK. This visa policy cannot be extended, however, if you find appropriate employment during these two years, you will be able to switch into skilled work and remain in the UK.