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Report by Migrants’ Rights Network and Unis Resist Border Controls finds woeful lack of support for Tier 4 students during Covid-19 crisis


Groups call for the Government to end no recourse to public funds provisions for international students

Date of Publication:

Migrants' Rights Network (MRN) and the academic campaign group Unis Resist Border Controls (URBC) released a short new report this week on the effects of Covid-19 on Tier 4 international students.

The 13-page report can be read here.

The report finds that there is a woeful lack of support structures in place within UK higher education for Tier 4 international students.

MRN and URBC interviewed 124 international students from 31 universities across the UK for the report. With international students having no recourse to public funds (NRPF), the report found that 70 respondents (56%) believed they were destitute or at risk of becoming destitute.

MRN and URBC said: "Without a safety net, many Tier 4 students are struggling more acutely during the COVID-19 lockdown to pay for basic necessities like groceries and rent. The precarity that these students are finding themselves in has contributed to mental health problems, which include depression and in some cases suicidal thoughts."

According to the report, the UK higher education sector is not doing enough to support international students.

The report states: "Despite financially supporting UK higher education, the money that Tier 4 students bring to the UK doesn't necessarily translate into better support structures and adequate resources for them and all other students. This is clearly seen in our study where Tier 4 students have not been given adequate hardship funds by their universities. In a number of other cases, URBC found that when hardship funds were open to Tier 4 students, they were still denied these grants, as exemplified by the comments in our study. Likewise, a number of Tier 4 students informed URBC that despite applying for hardship grants when they were made available, they nonetheless denied hardship grants and told that this was because they had filed the wrong application for funding."

MRN and URBC urged all universities to make hardship funds available and easily accessible to all students without the need for exhaustive administrative process.

The report also calls for a tuition fee amnesty for Tier 4 students and says no UK university should be forcing Tier 4 students to pay the remainder of their tuition fees during the pandemic. It notes: "While the UK continues with its COVID-19 lockdown, we must remember that lockdowns are also happening around the world. Tier 4 students have family members currently in lockdown and/or ill with COVID-19, who are unable to send them money to survive at the present time. Given the unprecedented situation we are in as a result of the global pandemic, we find it incredibly difficult to comprehend how a number of UK universities are weaponising the immigration status of tier 4 students who are unable to pay their tuition fees, much less survive in the UK."

Following their report, MRN and URBC, together with over 500 other signatories, wrote a letter to the Home Secretary calling for the Government to end NRPF provisions for Tier 4 international students.

The groups ask the Home Secretary: "How can you attract the best and brightest from around the world when the hostile environment policy and NRPF are creating many problems for international non-EEA students studying in the UK? And as we have illustrated, the COVID lockdown in the UK starkly shows that there are poor support structures in place for Tier 4 students, making them disproportionately vulnerable to destitution."