Original title: Unabated enthusiasm for studying in the UK, three thousand students worried about the epidemic petition for online classes
Despite the impact of the new crown epidemic, the UK is still one of the most popular destinations for Chinese students when they choose to study abroad.
According to data released by the University Admissions Service (UCAS) in July 2021, the number of Chinese students applying for undergraduate courses in the UK continued to increase as of June 30th, as of June 30th. %, which also exceeds the total number of applications from EU countries.
China has become the largest source of overseas students in the UK. According to data provided by the British Embassy in China to reporters from Caijing, from March 2020 to March 2021, the UK issued student visas to 87,611 Chinese citizens. Chinese citizens still account for the largest share of sponsored study visas, accounting for 35% of the total. However, due to the epidemic and global travel restrictions, this number has dropped by nearly 26% from the 118,386 in the year before March 2020.
Student visa policy is relatively friendly
Lin Yan wanted to study in the United States when she graduated, but when she really started to prepare to go abroad, she decided to apply for the United Kingdom. Although as a liberal arts student, her major is not a sensitive subject, the deterioration of Sino-US relations still worries her. More importantly, she found that she was more attracted to British culture, and experiencing the culture of a country is an indispensable part of studying abroad. For her with several years of work experience, the one-year master’s degree in the UK is also more advantageous in terms of time cost.
According to data released by the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) in January this year, the number of Chinese students studying in the UK has continued to increase in the past few years, with an increase of 56% from 2015 to 2020.
In order to attract more international talents, the UK resumed the previously cancelled Graduate Route (Graduate Route) in July 2021. According to this new policy, international students who have completed an undergraduate degree or above in the UK can have two years to work or look for job opportunities in the UK after graduation, and the visa period for a Ph.D. can reach three years.
The original British graduate work visa (PSW) was cancelled in 2012 by then Home Secretary Theresa May, which made it more difficult for overseas students to stay in the UK after graduation. Before the launch of this new policy, international students studying in the UK need to apply for work visas, and the British government has set specific requirements for the issuance of work visas such as minimum wages and quota restrictions.
The British Embassy in China told the Caijing reporter that graduate visas provide more convenience for studying in the UK and also create a fairer environment for graduates from various countries who want to work in the UK after graduation. “This new channel does not require guarantees, and does not require a job offer to qualify. It does not require a minimum wage, and there is no upper limit on the number of payments each year.”
Compared with the situation where the United States refused to sign more than 500 Chinese science and engineering students under Presidential Decree No. 10043, the UK student visa policy is more friendly. A staff member of an overseas study agency told a reporter from Caijing that some students have switched to the United Kingdom because of the tightened visa policy in the United States, or that the United Kingdom and the United States apply at the same time.
“In general, in all types of visas, the proportion of Chinese applicants who are refused visas is very low… The applicants who are refused visas usually fail to provide materials that meet the standards. As long as the applicant submits all the requirements Documents, the risk of student visa rejection is very low.” The British Embassy in China pointed out.
Online Teaching Petition
In March of this year, Zheng Yijin received the admission notice from the University of Sheffield. If there is no recurrence of the epidemic, she will probably be preparing for going abroad this summer. But the reality is that throughout July, she and more than 30 other students were busy petitioning 12 British universities, asking them to give them the option of online and offline dual-track teaching. After the communication with the school has not made any progress, the students of the 12-school alliance sent a joint petition letter to the British Minister of Education on July 28, with 3,068 student signatures on the letter.
In mid-June, the number of confirmed cases of new coronary pneumonia in the United Kingdom once again exceeded 10,000. Some students began to worry about the risk of infection that might be faced by studying in the UK, and eventually these students formed a 12-school alliance. 12 universities include University of Sheffield, University of Edinburgh, University of Leeds, London Business School, King’s College London, University College London, University of Warwick, University of Bristol, University of Newcastle, University of Southampton, University of Surrey and University of Manchester School of Design . These schools are ambiguous about whether to provide online courses, or require students to report to the school at the specified time.
But not all admitted students are willing to join the petition. Those who hold different opinions believe that online courses do not provide the best experience of studying abroad. They prefer to go to the UK to receive face-to-face teaching.
“Requesting schools to take online classes is not a force on the other. What we want is a dual-track system, wired offline and online. We hope that the school will respect our right to choose and allow us to choose a safer teaching model.” Yi Jin told a reporter from Caijing. Although she and other petitioning classmates yearn for the learning atmosphere of offline teaching, they believe that “you can’t fight each other with fate.”
Zheng Yijin’s worries are not unfounded. The British epidemic has repeatedly repeated. In April and May this year, the number of new infections per day in the UK dropped to one or two thousand, but it has gradually increased since June, and reached 53,969 on July 17.
Zhao Fei was a graduate student who enrolled in September last year. He first took online courses in China for a few months before coming to the UK in March this year. On June 12, he showed signs of fever and was diagnosed with the new crown virus the next day. When he saw the test result was positive, his brain went blank. But he quickly adjusted his mentality, accepted this reality, and ordered oximeters and oxygen generators from Amazon.
Because Zhao Fei was mildly ill, Zhao Fei self-isolated at home. In the next week, he developed symptoms such as repeated fever, cough, loss of smell, diarrhea, and difficulty breathing. In the worst case, his blood oxygen saturation was below 93%, and he had to call the emergency number 111 of the NHS (UK National Medical Service).
Before leaving for the UK, Zhao Fei had concerns about the local epidemic, but because he did not want to continue to take online classes at home, he decided to set off. He is not sure when and where he came into contact with the source of infection, but he does not regret coming to the UK. “You must have this psychological preparation when you choose to come to the UK,” he told the Caijing reporter.
For Zhang Yue, who has also been infected with the new crown virus, what is more desperate than the diagnosis is that the plan to go home has been completely disrupted. She had already booked a flight ticket to return home on July 28, but in the end she could only cancel the trip. Because returning home needs to provide both the new coronavirus nucleic acid test and the negative certificate of serum-specific IgM antibodies, and people who have been infected with the new coronavirus will still be positive for IgM antibodies for a period of time after recovery, and the time required to turn negative varies from person to person. In order to prevent her family from worrying, Zhang Yue did not tell them that she was infected with the new crown virus, and now she cannot be sure of her return date, which has burdened her with a heavy psychological burden.
Before going to London for postgraduate studies, Zhang Yue completed her undergraduate study in another city in the UK, so she stayed in the UK throughout the epidemic. She told a reporter from Caijing that she would slowly relax her vigilance after staying in the UK for a long time. She felt that she might be infected, but she had no luck until the Delta mutant strain came and she was not spared.
In the past year, Zhang Yue took a year of online classes in London. This online teaching did not leave her with a good experience, “no enthusiasm, will not listen carefully.” In her view, if you can choose, you should choose offline courses, and if you feel uneasy about the epidemic, you should apply to the school to postpone enrollment. However, many students who participated in this petition have already been postponed once due to the 2020 epidemic and cannot be postponed again this year.
Although still worried about the uncertainty of the British epidemic, Lin Yan bought a ticket for September. She told a reporter from Caijing: “The epidemic is always repeating. If you have to wait for a complete recovery, I don’t know it will be a few years later.” At least the speed of vaccination in the UK has given her some hope.
The United Kingdom has completely lifted various restrictions due to the new crown epidemic on July 19. An important consideration for British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s decision to unblock is because of the high vaccination rate in the UK. As of July 31, more than 46.85 million people in the UK had completed the first dose of new crown vaccine, accounting for 88.6% of the adult population; more than 38.34 million people had completed two doses, accounting for 72.5%.
Security review independent of visa procedures
Li Fan originally wanted to go to the United States to study for a PhD degree in mechanics, but in view of the US visa policy, she decided to apply to the United Kingdom. There are not a few students like her. Under the US Presidential Decree No. 10043, graduates of the “Seven National Defense” colleges were barred from entering the country because they were deemed to be related to the “Military-Civilian Integration Strategy.” Li Fan’s undergraduate and master’s degrees were both enrolled in one of the “National Defense Seven Sons”. She realized that as long as Order 10043 is not removed, the risk of her being denied a visa is high.
After submitting the application for a British university, Li Fan successfully received the admission notice, but there was another requirement that came with the notice. She needed to obtain the Academic Technology Approval System (ATAS) certificate. She can only get the ATAS certificate. Apply for a UK visa.
ATAS has been implemented since 2007. It requires international students and overseas researchers who apply for a master’s degree or higher in sensitive subjects to undergo a security review before going to the UK. The relevant knowledge in these subjects can be used to develop advanced conventional military technology (ACMT) , Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs) or means of delivery.
Applicants need to submit an application on the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Commonwealth Affairs and Development of the United Kingdom, and provide information on learning motivation, learning experience, referees and other information. People from the European Economic Area, Switzerland, the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea and Singapore are exempt.
ATAS involves disciplines including chemistry, physics, mathematics, information systems, computer science, artificial intelligence, biological sciences, genetics, materials science, mechanical engineering, aviationAerospace Engineering, Electronic Engineering, etc. Beginning in October last year, the Department of Foreign Affairs, Commonwealth Affairs and Development of the United Kingdom increased the scope of the safety review of overseas students, and the scope of review involving majors in the field of cyber security and aviation was further expanded.
On May 21, Li Fan submitted an ATAS certificate application and has not received a reply yet. ATAS approval usually takes 20 working days, and Li Fan has been waiting for more than two months. The waiting process was very painful, especially after I heard that several students’ applications were rejected. She sighed to the Caijing reporter that she did not expect that it would be so difficult for science and engineering students to go to the UK.
But unlike the US visa policy, the UK ATAS review is independent of the visa process. “Visa applicants will only be rejected if they fail to meet the relevant visa requirements. For applicants who need to obtain an ATAS certificate, as long as they can submit the ATAS certificate and all other required materials, they can get the visa.” The embassy in China said.
(At the request of the interviewee, Lin Yan, Zhao Fei, Zhang Yue, and Li Fan in this article are all pseudonyms)
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