Move stems from fears travel restrictions could deprive sector of millions of pounds
More than 50 of the UK’s top universities are hiring planes to fly in students from China, a move driven by fears that global travel restrictions could deprive the universities of hundreds of millions of pounds in tuition fees.
Students from China provide about a fifth of tuition fees, which are worth about £1.3 billion ($1.79bn) every year.
Russell Group members such as Imperial College London, the University of Bristol and the University of Exeter have already brought in 1,200 Chinese students on four flights before the new term begins next month.
More flights are planned to cope with the demand, international education organisation Into HE said.
The universities have also organised accommodation and food supplies to help the students get through the 10-day isolation period all travellers who arrive in the UK from an amber-list country must undertake.
Vivienne Stern, director for Universities UK International, said the approach was not a silver bullet and universities were making contingency plans for students unable to travel to the UK for the start of their course.
“[Universities] are making provision for online learning and multiple start dates,” she said.
Focus on foreign funds to detriment of UK students
This may work for Chinese students, but it is less favourable for students from the UK, who risk paying the price for the focus on foreign funds.
“There are real questions to be asked about whether universities are now so focused on their income from overseas students that there is a risk that they are giving them priority over UK students,” Alan Smithers, professor of education at the University of Buckingham, told The Times.
Students from Manchester and Liverpool universities appear to share Prof Smithers’ concerns and have requested a reduction in fees unless face-to-face classes are reinstated.
The efforts to fly students from China to the UK is a result of the cancellation of direct commercial flights between the two countries in December because of coronavirus concerns.
As a consequence, many students are seeking passage through Hong Kong where Into HE is working with universities to hire aircraft. With Hong Kong on the UK’s green list, there is no need for travellers to enter quarantine on arrival.
UK travel: green, amber and red list countries from August 26
China, which is on the amber list, is the biggest source of overseas students to UK universities. India, which was on the UK’s red list until recently, is second.
The situation has led UK universities to petition the government to provide more hotel accommodation at airports to help students, The Times reported.
Docente - Investigadora Educativa.
Doctora en Cs. de la Educación, Magíster en Desarrollo Curricular y Licenciada en Relaciones Industriales.