UK universities expose thousands of international students to raging pandemic | #students | #parents

Universities have played a major role in the UK’s second wave of COVID-19 infections. Daily infections almost doubled over the first week of October as campuses reopened.

This was the entirely predictable result of the reckless drive to encourage students back to the campuses for in-person teaching this term, with lies about “COVID-secure” campuses and a normal “university experience”.

The marketised universities, increasingly dependent on private loans, feared that a move to fully online teaching would lead to masses of students deferring their entry, not taking up places in rent-racking student accommodation blocks or paying into the network of private interests with a place on university campuses, and demanding reductions in tuition fees.

One of their primary concerns was that international students would view coming to the UK as too risky.

Women wear a face mask to protect against the coronavirus in London, Thursday, March 12, 2020. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)

International students have long been viewed by universities as “cash cows”, with their financial strategies based on ever more aggressive international recruitment strategies and on increasing the fees charged to international students. According to the Times Higher Education, international students now often pay between £10,000 and £26,000 per year for undergraduate study.

In April, there was widespread panic among UK universities as the pandemic looked likely to deter students from abroad travelling to the UK for study in the coming academic year. A briefing from the House of Commons library observed in April that international students paid £7 billion in fees alone in the academic year 2018-19 (17.3 percent of the income of the university sector).

Many universities reacted to this prospect by announcing plans for staff take redundancies and pay cuts or freezes. Some, such as Lancaster University, even asked staff to voluntarily return part of their pay as a donation to the university’s balance sheet.

However, the threat of an exodus of international students failed to materialise. The number of international students accepting offers from UK universities in fact increased by seven percent over the previous year. This was in large part due to lies promoted by the government and universities that a safe return to campuses was possible. They sought to capitalise on the huge importance of UK university degrees for the life chances of many international students—whose families often save for years to meet the extortionate fees.

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