Covid challenges: Indian students adjust to blended learning at UK universities

PTI London | Updated on October 16, 2020 Published on October 16, 2020

India is largely responsible for driving up Britain’s overseas student arrivals

A significant cohort of students from India have managed to travel to the UK despite Covid-19 restrictions to take up courses across universities and are adjusting to the blended learning approach of a mix of online and in-person teaching, according to an analysis of the first few weeks of the new academic term.

Universities UK, which represents 139 universities across Britain, said the latest data and insights from universities indicate that a higher number of international students have been placed at UK universities than was initially expected.

As the 2020-21 autumn term got under way this month, they collated reports of universities putting in place a range of dedicated support measures for students flying in from overseas, including India.

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“My journey to the UK was extremely smooth. I had no trouble at all getting through my CAS [college admissions service], visa application process and accommodation booking,” said Rohan, an Indian student who returned to the campus recently to continue his course at Birmingham City University.

“I felt safe throughout my journey to the UK, with social distancing guidelines being followed, and the immigration process was quick and straightforward upon arrival in London,” he said.

Overseas education: 42% of Indian students embrace blended learning due to Covid, says survey

Fee reduction sought

The National Indian Students and Alumni Union UK (NISAU-UK) said it is in the process of conducting a wide-ranging review into the experiences of Indian students and found that close to 40 per cent of students are satisfied with the blended learning approach.

A near equal number of students, however, seem unsatisfied and hope that the teaching process will be improved as further adjustments are made.

Few to none of the respondents have faced trouble during self-isolation as those that had decided to enter the UK, had been well equipped with knowledge and guidance, said Vignesh Karthik, NISAU-UK’s head of thought leadership.

All respondents almost unanimously agree that a reduction in fees will allow for a better experience on the whole, he said, in reference to a demand that has found echoes widely across the student community in the UK amid the coronavirus lockdown.

There have also been concerns for student well-being as several campuses reported coronavirus outbreaks, resulting in Universities UK’s new checklist of measures for universities to ensure access to basics during enforced quarantines.

International buddy project

Among some of the specific measures in place, the University of Salford has set up an international buddy project to support international students through self-isolation and Cardiff University and the University of Bristol offer packs for students in self-isolation, which includes bedding and food.

“Universities have robust plans in place that prioritise the health and safety of their students, staff and wider community, while continuing to deliver a high-quality teaching experience. Our first message to any student is to talk to their university to understand any flexible arrangements and support in place for students depending on their circumstances,” said Vivienne Stern, Director of Universities UK International.

The British Council in India said it has been interacting with thousands of Indian students planning to study in the UK over the last six months, to understand concerns on health and safety, travel and modes of study.

“Many universities are geared to deliver, some in person, teaching this autumn term, and will blend face to face learning with online technology and tools to support students’ education. This will be regularly reviewed in line with current and local guidance to ensure that teaching is delivered effectively in a safe environment,” said Barbara Wickham, Director India, British Council.

According to the latest Office for National Statistics (ONS) data, India is largely responsible for driving up Britain’s overseas student arrivals, who account for great financial gains for the UK universities with fees nearly three times that paid by domestic students.

Indian nationals accounted for 17 per cent of the total 2,99,023 sponsored study visas granted by the UK Home Office in the year ending March 2020, with the number more than doubling from 2019 to hit a total of 49,844 grants.

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Published on October 16, 2020
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