Cherwell - Oxford University's Independent Student Newspaper since 1920

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Claire Rodwell and Kyle Thetford has published 1 article

Oxford’s International Affairs

In the second of two international investigations, Cherwell examines the experience of overseas students at Oxford.
Claire Rodwell and Kyle Thetford on Thursday 3rd May 2012
Photograph: Ninara

Oxford is set to experience a dramatic influx of foreign students, with an increase of 30,000 to the UK as a whole expected within the next decade.

The number of non-EU students studying in the UK has already increased considerably in recent years. A 2010 report by the Sutton Trust shows that universities have doubled the number of non-EU students over the past 10 years, with 12% of undergraduates and 54% of postgraduates coming from overseas. and the majority of this growth coming from China and India.

The British Council predicts a further 10% increase in the number of overseas students studying in the UK by 2020. It also states that the worldwide number of students studying overseas had risen to over 3.5 million at the end of the last decade, and that these numbers are predicted to continue rising.

According to UNESCO, (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) over 60% of these international students opted to study in one of the US, the UK, Australia, France, Germany, Russia, Japan or Canada. Britain is predicted to experience the fastest increase in the flow of foreign students from one country to another, with an expected increase of 20,000 students coming from India to the UK.

With unrestricted fees on international students, top universities can afford to charge international students far more for the same university experience as UK students. This is reflected in Oxford’s 2012/2013 tuition fees for international students. According to the Oxford ‘Fees, funding and scholarship search’, Oxford plans to charge as much as £18,550 a year for an non-EU student prospective undergraduate wishing to study in 2012/13.

There is also a ‘college fee’, only paid by non-EU students, which amounts to around £6,157 (significantly more expensive than Cambridge’s £4500-£5500 college fee). According to the University website, this “covers academic facilities and other services that are provided by your college”. Factoring in £10,700 worth of living expenses, one international student could be expecting to pay as much as £35,407 in their first year at Oxford - £15,707 more than a UK student would expect to pay over the same period.

The Sutton Trust, which aims to promote social mobility through education, suggests in a 2010 report that universities may seek to capitalise on lucrative foreign students, saying that it is one of the “most likely options that universities in England have of generating more income from student financial contributions in the future.”

Concern has been expressed at the expense of studying in the UK by international students. The 2011 International Student Barometer report shows that overseas students feel that there is not enough opportunity to earn money whilst studying, with a 3% decrease in satisfaction over the past year. Meanwhile, 43% of international students expressed dissatisfaction with the high costs associated with university accommodation.

Many international students at Oxford said they felt that they are being taken advantage of. Bobo Zhang, a first year Economics and Management student originally from Singapore, commented, “Honestly, whilst everyone is facing a fee hike, I think that what international students have to pay is ridiculously large, considering how many students in Oxford come from private schools with insanely high tuition fees.” Zhang added, “Most US universities still offer financial aid to international students, I feel that it is one of the biggest drawbacks studying at Oxford.”

Erina Kato, a visiting student from Tokyo studying PPE agreed, stating, “It is unfair that foreign students have to pay higher tuition - it makes foreign students hesitate about making the choice to study at Oxford. On the other hand, it is inevitable that foreign students pay more, because I assume that it costs more for the university to accept them in terms of visas etc.”

Yet for some, the attraction of an Oxford education appears to override the thought of paying up to £55,650 for tuition in Britain. Kato said, “Just the thought of being able to study at one of the famous universities in the world made me want to come, but I also found the tutorial system very appealing. In Japan, you just attend lectures with about 200 people and take exams at the end of the term, and so there aren’t many opportunities to discuss and exchange ideas on what you learn with professors and other students.”

Madeline Foote, a first year historian originally from the US, agreed that the Oxford system is worth the extra expense, saying, “The tutorial style and the independence were attractive and offered a different kind of education from the US schools I was considering. I was looking for an education that would really push me out of my comfort zone.”

With regard to tuition fees, Foote added, “I think everyone should be paying for what their degree is worth. Our education is so valuable, that even paying international fees I know that I’m not truly having to bear the full cost.”

The average cost of educating an Oxford student is £16,000 a year (although lab-based subjects cost considerably more). The University told Cherwell, “The amount of money the University receives for teaching a Home/EU student through fees and grant falls well short of the University’s costs and is made up from other sources including endowment.”

In light of this, students fear that faced with two candidates of a similar calibre, Oxford will offer places to students to whom they can charge an amount that the University describes as “more closely reflects the actual cost of teaching in colleges”.

Emma Finlayson, first year musician at St Peter’s asked, “If Oxford says it offers places only on a meritocratic basis and many more overseas students are applying, surely this would mean that British students are crowded out as places become limited?”

A spokesperson for Oxford University denied that admissions tutors ever favour overseas applicants over home students, insisting that decisions are made purely on the basis of academic factors rather than any financial or social considerations.

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