Note From the Editor
For the first time ever, the number of Indian students studying in the UK has exceeded the number of Chinese students last year, reflecting a broader trend of diversifying the foreign student population in the leading destination market. A US representative has also commended the Biden administration, with the country running one of the biggest visa operations globally, for steps being taken to decrease the delays in visa processing applications in India. In Canada, the continuing challenge of getting permanent residence unfolds in a Manitoba protest by Manitobans, international students, and skilled workers with temporary work permits, calling for changes to its Provincial Nominee Program. These and more international education news from Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, India, and Morocco are in store in this week’s edition of MSM Reporter.
For the first time ever, the number of Indian students studying in the United Kingdom has exceeded the number of Chinese students last year, according to Home Office figures. Recent data also revealed that 127,731 student visas were issued to Indian nationals for the year ending September 2022, compared with 116,476 to students from China, who had traditionally constituted the largest group of international recruits. This shift mirrors a broader trend among UK universities aiming to diversify their international student population from outside China due to political concerns and heavy reliance on this market for income.
United States representative Grace Meng has commended the Biden administration for steps being taken to decrease the delays in visa processing applications in India. The US has dispatched a group of consular officers to India and established overseas embassies in Germany and Thailand to accelerate Indian visa applications. Deputy assistant secretary for visa services Julie Stufft, in an interview with news agency PTI, emphasized the urgency of normalizing visa operations worldwide, stating: “We are putting all of our efforts towards eliminating these wait times in India. The normalization of visa operations globally is our top priority.” The US maintains one of the largest visa operations in the world, mostly for students, tech workers, immigrants who are moving permanently to the country, and a significant percentage of H-1B and other work visas for skilled foreign workers, many in the technology sector, are awarded to Indians.
Changes to the Provincial Nominee Program are being sought by Manitobans as well as international students and skilled workers with temporary work permits. The said program gives people who want to move to Manitoba three ways to do so: as skilled workers, international students, or business investors. However, the requirements have come under scrutiny, with critics saying they’re impossible to achieve for those transferring to the province after graduation. “They should lower the points and we can meet the requirements so everybody can be on the same page and can get their permanent residence,” said Mandeep Rohilla, an international student applying for the program.
The closure of Australia’s borders due to the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted its thriving international education sector, including student accommodation providers, and the reopening of borders and increased demand to study in Australia appears to worsen the existing rental crisis, with rental prices skyrocketing and properties being quickly snatched up. The matter poses a significant challenge for international students seeking accommodation in 2023. International students are urged to familiarize themselves with their tenant rights in their respective state or territory to protect themselves from potential rental scams. And although the number of international students coming to Australia may continue to grow in the coming years, renters are facing increasing financial pressures due to higher rental costs without corresponding increases in wages.
Universities New Zealand (UniNZ) has taken action to secure seats on flights for international students in response to many students being unable to travel to New Zealand due to limited airline capacity, booking 400 seats on an Air New Zealand flight from China. Chris Whelan, executive director of UniNZ, emphasized the importance of international students in the country’s education system. He stated that these students continue to conduct research, engage in trade, and recommend New Zealand once they return home.
Tens of thousands of Brazilian students attend English language schools and work part-time in Ireland but are unprepared for the real cost of living in the country. They currently face financial difficulties due to high living expenses and a lack of affordable housing. Despite working part-time jobs, many students are resorting to precarious or low-paying jobs and couch surfing to make ends meet, with the recommended income level provided by the government deemed insufficient to cover rent, tuition, and other living expenses. Some students rely on informal support networks and food banks, while others take on multiple jobs or living in overcrowded housing. While the English language education sector is estimated to be worth €2 billion to Ireland’s economy, students are not adequately prepared for the high cost of living and remain at risk of being taken advantage of.
The rate of US F1 visa denials for Nigerian applicants has reached a new high in 2022, with two out of three being denied. Reasons for the denials include lack of proof of strong ties to the home country, insufficient funds, and not being well-prepared for American education. To increase their chances of success, educational consultants suggest that students research well, secure scholarships, and tell their personal story or background. Additionally, the issue of Nigerian students overstaying their visas in the US may be contributing to the high denial rates, as some consulars may have a subconscious impression that students from the Sub-Saharan region are not financially capable.
South Asian youth culture magazine 5X Press is organizing a community forum to be held in Surrey, British Columbia. The event is shining a light on the struggles experienced by South Asian international students in the province. According to Jeevan Sangha, editor of the magazine, the event will cover a myriad of different topics and concerns, one of which is a high incidence of exploitation, specifically by community members and business owners who perpetuate cycles of exploitative practices against foreign students. These practices include landlord exploitation, workplace exploitation and wage theft, and increased reports of sexual exploitation from women identifying as international students.
India is now the top source of student visas to Australia with almost 44,000 applications received in the last six months of 2022. This figure toppled China’s 38,700 during the same period. Buoyed by the response, Catarina Jackson, chief executive at Universities Australia, said universities in the country had almost 100,000 students alone in 2022. She added that the Australia-India trade pact, with a commitment to provide post-study work rights to Indian students, will help unlock the full potential of the education partnership between the two nations.
In 2023, the UK is emerging as Nigerians’ preferred destination for higher education, as it is known for its prestigious universities, diverse socio-cultural environment, job opportunities, and state-of-the-art research facilities. Data from Erudera shows that the number of international students in the UK, including Nigerians, has grown from 450,835 in 2016-17 to 650,130 in 2021-22, with the majority of them majoring in business management, engineering and technology, social sciences, computing, design, creative and performing arts, law, and subjects allied to medicine. Many Nigerians choose to study in the UK because of the language, short duration of academic programs, and the opportunity to have a social life outside of school work.
The news about China’s official reopening of borders to international travelers early this month comes as a relief to many who have not been home or get to be with their loved ones in years because of the pandemic. Last January 8, the Chinese government removed its mandatory quarantine policy for inbound travelers, a decision that came after almost three years of strict COVID-19 restrictions that limited travel within the country and prompted protests in 17 key cities. With easing restrictions, many are hopeful they might go back home soon, although they are cognizant of risks to account for. For instance, the US is now requiring testing for incoming flights as China is facing its largest infected population since the onset of the pandemic.
After the end of China’s COVID-19 stringent lockdowns, Moroccan students have been able to travel to the Asian country to continue their studies. Morocco’s response, however, is to block all incoming travel from China since January 3. China’s educational institutions, known for its low cost and high ranking, are particularly attractive to Moroccan students due to the perceived lack of investment in higher education in their home country, making Chinese scholarships and grants an appealing option. Existing COVID-19 border controls in China, though, could dampen the optimism among Moroccan international students, with some citing the ineffectiveness of distance education methods and missed opportunities for internships.
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MSM Reporter is collated by a globally spread team of MSM and is published every Thursday.