The council noted that international students from outside the EU are being charged increasingly high tuition fees, and that it is becoming more difficult for overseas students to enter the UK for higher education. As international students add great value to the university economically, academically and culturally, many students, including Postgraduate Officer Laura Theobold, were concerned about this issue.
Tuition fees for international students are currently unregulated and have no cap. In addition, students may also be required to pay extra course costs. With the introduction of this motion, the SU now opposes all tuition fee increases for overseas students that are above the rate of inflation or above the actual cost of the respective course. They intend to lobby the University to make their use of tuition fees transparent and “to give clear information to all international students before starting their degree about tuition fees for the duration of their course”.
Laura Theobald claimed that the drop in international students is having a direct effect on the University of Nottingham and its student numbers. Whilst there has been a 16% increase in international and EU undergraduates over the last 5 years, there was a 2% decrease this year.
Theobald denied that the motion might affect the amount of resources available to domestic students, and education officer Matt Styles called the practice: “another one of the government’s toys to make a market place for education.” The point was made that the practice of charging vastly higher tuition fees for overseas students is a global standard, and therefore it seems pointless for the SU to oppose it. Styles replied that the SU should be “aspirational” when it comes to tackling these issues.
There were also concerns raised about the fact that the SU currently has no access to information on how the tuition money from international students is spent. A procedural motion to amend or delay the motion was proposed but not passed.
Another motion, proposing that the SU should lobby the government to reinstate the post-study work visa, was also passed. Laura Theobald explained that “a couple of years ago, international students could stay on after their studies, work in the UK for a few years, and then go back to their own countries, which by and large most students did. Alternatively, at the end of the two years they got permanent jobs and were able to stay… so I feel very strongly against getting rid of the postgraduate visa.”