Over the past year students have voiced mixed opinion about their experience at university during the pandemic. A sentiment that is echoed by international students and demonstrated in the recent QS UK International Student Survey whereby only 41% of respondents think that universities have been ‘extremely’ or ‘very’ effective in supporting their international students (p. 20).
In the height of the pandemic, the OfS recognised international students as a vulnerable group particularly in relation to the impact of travel restrictions, uncertain living arrangements and financial hardship. As difficulties facing international students due to the pandemic become increasingly understood, it is important to recognise and respond to these unique concerns when planning to support both new and returning international students in the year ahead.
The opportunity to adapt to a new culture and make new connections is important to international students, an opportunity that was taken away due to the pandemic. This is largely due to travel restrictions and online learning models that have reduced the opportunity for the students to build the relationships and support networks that provide that much needed sense of belonging in a new environment.
One of the greatest concerns this raises is student wellbeing. Not only could students be facing difficulties with making relations remotely, but they are also missing family and friends that they are unable to easily return to. Some have not even made it to campus at all, trying to gain an experience remotely and often from completely different time zones. It means these students are forced into situations that can be isolating and lonely, impacting wellbeing, mental health and their potential success.
Worryingly, a recent survey by ICEF Monitor reveals ‘international students… may also be more hesitant about asking for help when suffering from a mental health crisis.’ This may be due to cultural barriers, or students simply not knowing which support services are available.
This theme continues when seeking other services such as financial support. International students face a higher financial commitment than domestic students. With many families impacted by COVID across the world, finding funds may be challenging and yet international students may not be able to access emergency funds or may even fear asking for help due to their worry about how that will be perceived by the university and home office.
The range of circumstances international students find themselves in is also extremely challenging for universities to support not only at an individual level but also in line with UKVI compliance and regulation changes. Keeping track of students’ locations, knowing if they are still participating in their studies and identifying when and who needs help requires a better understanding of engagement.
Last year the Home Office changed their compliance criteria to make sure international students’ remote studying needs were met. Attendance monitoring had been heavily relied upon to meet UKVI compliance, with this no longer an option the Home Office asked universities to monitor engagement: ‘if a student stops engaging with their distance learning for more than 30 days, whether overseas or in the UK, their sponsor must withdraw sponsorship.’
This statement from the Home Office places the need for engagement monitoring firmly into focus. Forcing many universities to reflect upon what data represents engagement and how to demonstrate engagement if required. Focusing on engagement can provide many benefits not only to identify withdrawal but perhaps more importantly to recognise changes in behaviour earlier. With the view to provide proactive intervention to better support international students to stay in the course and succeed.
At Solutionpath, we believe that every student should have the opportunity to reach their full potential. Our student engagement platform StREAM helps to gain an understanding of students’ participation in their academic activities via a unique engagement rating and alerts to changes in engagement behaviour that could be a cause for concern.
An international filter in the data helps to specifically target international student concerns and meet Home Office’s requirements. This functionality has allowed many of our partners to quickly adapt to the changes presented during COVID with universities being able to customise international reporting; record interactions; make referrals to specific international support teams and services and generate automatic alerts that raise concerns about disengagement to act on.
The functionality was demonstrated during a workshop at The StREAM Community Conference and gained positive feedback from attendees:
“Just wanted to say in terms of international monitoring – the flexibility to collect data and use this is great.”
“The reporting function could save on one of our current weekly processes.”
“Really interesting to see the background that goes into alerts and how ours could possibly be changed to improve the student experience.”
StREAM is an increasingly crucial tool to fully understand the engagement levels of international students. By collecting engagement data in an understandable and actionable way, you can uphold your duty of care, Home Office compliance requirements, and put the necessary measures in place to support and retain the international students at your institution.
If you’re responsible for reporting international student data and supporting your international students’ experiences at your university, we’d like to invite you to watch the workshop – ‘Student Routes: Using StREAM to support international students’. You can also find out how StREAM can be used to support international students by contacting the Solutionpath team to request a personalised demonstration – request a demo form.
Over the past year students have voiced mixed opinion about their experience at university during the pandemic. A sentiment that is echoed by international students and demonstrated in the recent QS UK International Student Survey whereby only 41% of respondents think that universities have been ‘extremely’ or ‘very’ effective in supporting their international students (p. 20). In the height of the pandemic, the OfS recognised international students as a vulnerable group particularly in relation to the impact of travel restrictions, uncertain living arrangements and […]
Fill in your details in the form to the right to access the full article.