UK unis “keen to ensure” places for internationals after grading u-turn

The government announcement regrading the national A-Level results last week gave students teacher-assessed grades after an algorithm created by exams regulator Ofqual downgraded some 40% of A-level results based on schools’ prior grades.

“It’s fair to say universities have been left in a difficult position”

The move means that some high ranking UK institutions are anticipating a bumper crop of domestic numbers as more students met their target grades to be accepted onto courses.

International students generally apply for places at UK institutions ahead of domestic students meaning they already had their places confirmed before the government policy change, a spokesperson at the University of Liverpool noted.

While domestic numbers are expected to bulge at some institutions, universities will be “keen to ensure” there are still places available for their international cohorts, according to the Higher Education Policy Institute’s director of Policy and Advocacy, Rachel Hewitt.

“It’s fair to say universities have been left in a difficult position after all the last minute changes we have seen in the last couple of weeks,” she said.

“Calculating the number of places available this year has been made more complex by the fact more students will have met their entry requirements than in previous years, the late removal of the student number cap and the need to manage the number of students on campus to minimise the Covid-19 risks.

“Nonetheless, universities will be keen to ensure there are still places available for all those international students who are looking to come and study with them,” she explained.

Universities will take into account the need to ensure sufficient places for international students when calculating overall student numbers, Hewitt continued.

“There are steps in place for universities who cannot take all domestic students who met their offer criteria, such as offering deferred places for 2021/22.”

Universities are used to working autonomously to manage their domestic and international student numbers, Hewitt added.

“While universities have been left in a more complex position than in previous years, I feel confident that most will find places for international students looking to come and study at their institution this year.”

“The majority of international students will also be offer holders at this stage in the recruitment cycle, and universities are doing everything they can to ensure they are able to honour any offers made, where students meet the terms of that offer,” assistant director of External Affairs at UUKi Andrew Howells said.

UUKi is working closely with the government through the Higher Education Taskforce to ensure universities are properly supported, he added.

“We believe through positive recent international student related policy announcements from Government, efforts from universities and partners across the sector, and national level campaigns such as #WeAreTogether, the UK is well placed to welcome many international students in 2020-21.”

Stakeholders, however, have highlighted that barriers remain for international students seeking to arrive in the UK.

Elsewhere, the BBC reported that overseas students that enrolled at the University of Hertfordshire in 2019 fear losing their places unless they settled any debts, but the institution has clarified that it had amended its payment dates.

Other universities have made clear that international students enrolling this year will not miss out on places.

“The university will honour all places offered to international students, some of whom may choose to study online with us for part of next academic year, where this is possible,” a spokesperson for the University of Liverpool said.

“The majority of international students will also be offer holders at this stage in the recruitment cycle”

“All decisions on admissions have been made with a commitment to providing an excellent learning experience remaining our absolute priority.”

Despite recent UCAS figures indicating an uptick in international applications from outside the EU, institutions across the UK “continue to anticipate a drop in the number of international students attending in the autumn”, the spokesperson continued.

Applications from students in Europe fell by 13.2% the UCAS statistics showed.

Reasons range from difficulties securing flights and countries being in different stages in dealing with the pandemic, they added.

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