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An aussie abroad: the true cost of University as an Australian

Whenever people find out I’m Australian, I immediately get asked the same question: ‘Why on earth did you leave the sun and the warmth of Australia to come to university in the English West Midlands, a place that’s neither sunny nor warm?’.

And my answer? Well it’s the same as most of the other international students you’ll meet at Warwick. I came to the UK to pursue a world-class education in a country with a wealth of opportunities for so many different people. However, for me and every other international student, my decision to study in the UK comes at a cost.

Of all the international students studying in the UK, 8455 study at Warwick, making it the 8th biggest university in the UK in terms of international student intake…

According to the 2016-17 Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) study, 81% of students studying in the UK are from the UK, 6% from the EU and 13% from countries outside the EU. Of all the international students studying in the UK, 8455 study at Warwick, making it the 8th biggest university in the UK in terms of international student intake.

For those 8455 students, 4220 of which are undergraduates and 4235 postgraduate, the cost of studying in the UK is no small sum.

First and foremost, before anyone can study full-time in the UK you must apply for a Tier 4 student visa (or equivalent visa classifications). Applying for a Tier 4 student visa costs £322, and that’s only if you’re outside the UK. Applying for a visa from within the UK will cost you £439 by post or £839 in person. On top of this, every successful applicant must pay a ‘health surcharge’ of £150 per year for the duration of their study in the UK.

Any Australian like me would now have to pay up to £1000 for a return flight home, £322 for the new visa and roughly £350 for a few nights’ accommodation in Canberra…

You’d be wrong to think that’s it though, because the visa costs don’t stop there. Many students currently studying at Warwick will be registered on a 4-year integrated masters course, but as is common practice, many will decide to switch to the shorter 3-year bachelor’s course in the same degree. For domestic students, all this involves is the simple procedure of filling out a form and getting a few signatures. On the other hand, recent changes to immigration laws for Tier 4 Student Visa holders means that international students making this switch are sent back to their home country to lodge a completely new visa application, rather than being able to apply for their new visa from within the UK.

To put that into perspective, instead of paying £439 to apply for a new visa in the post, any Australian like me would now have to pay up to £1000 for a return flight home, £322 for the new visa and roughly £350 for a few nights’ accommodation in Canberra (Australia’s lesser known capital) as we wait for our new visas to be processed. Don’t even get me started on the emotional strain of the 24-hour flight there and back.

The most expensive courses nearing the realm of £40,000 a year, nearly quadruple the rate of any British or EU citizen…

Once you’ve obtained your visa and are about to start at university, you’ll be hit with your first round of fees. University fees for students from outside the European Economic Zone (EEZ) are not capped under UK law, meaning they can exceed the £9250 rate for domestic students. This has resulted in the average cost for an undergraduate degree for international students in the UK rising to £22,200 per year, with the most expensive courses nearing the realm of £40,000 a year, nearly quadruple the rate of any British or EU citizen. However, with Brexit less than a year away, there’s now the possibility EU citizens will be paying close to these figures very soon.

Then there’s the living costs. It’s estimated that it costs the average UK student £8000-£10000 per year to pay for accommodation, food, utilities and other expenditures. That’s on top of the fees you’re already paying to the university.

So, after paying immigration, academic and living costs, are any financial incentives left for international students to study in the UK? Of course there are.

Transferring most foreign currency into GBP (British Pounds) to pay for everything has rarely been cheaper…

Firstly, because international students are not eligible for UK government subsidies, there are no mandatory repayments once they leave university. So, unless they have a scholarship/grant from their home country, international students will leave university without student debt. Secondly, thanks to Brexit and the rapid devaluing of the pound that quickly followed, transferring most foreign currency into GBP (British Pounds) to pay for everything has rarely been cheaper.

Universities in the UK are world class; Warwick in particular is ranked highly on multiple league tables. That is why so many international students make the decision to leave their homes and come over to pursue tertiary education in the UK. Yet our decision to study here was not made lightly, and the financial strain may soon become too much to bear.

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