Massive UK education sector cut backs will heavily impact on expat teachers and students

by Ray Clancy on July 6, 2010

Expat teachers and students looking to study in the UK could suffer under a number of cutbacks that are being put in place as part of the country’s austerity programme, it has emerged.

The British government is reviewing the future of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office scholarship programmes in a bid to save money. It means that foreign students who don’t have the money to pay high UK university fees could lose out.

£10 million is to be cut from the budget and the main victim is the Chevening Scholarship Programme, created to strengthen ties between the UK and 130 countries by offering education and skills advancements to potential leaders of tomorrow.

Most scholarships include a living stipend, airfares and the full or partial cost of tuition fees and have benefited many students, journalists, government officers and NGOs.

One under threat as a result is the 26-year-old scholarship programme for young Malaysian students to study in the UK. This year’s 14 scholarship recipients will still be going to London for the yearlong programme, but it is expecting to be scrapped after that.

The British High Commission said despite a £10 million cut from £25.5 million to the scholarship’s global budget for 2010/11, it had secured sufficient funds to send all the recipients as originally planned.

While Foreign Secretary William Hague has said he wants to maintain a substantial programme of scholarships to bring future decision takers and opinion formers to the UK, the scheme will see £10 million trimmed from its resources.

‘We will cut this year’s programme and, resources permitting, seek to sustain a smaller and more strategic programme in future years. I believe this programme should also attract some further external funding, which will now be explored,’ he told the House of Commons.

Other students also face paying more in fees if they choose to study in the UK, especially at the top tier universities such as Oxford and Cambridge as the higher education budget is also facing massive cuts.

A substantial rise in tuition fees is seen by many universities as the answer to their financial shortfalls. The Russell Group of universities, which includes the top 20 universities in Britain, has already decided to raise the international fees by around 6% for the 2011/12 academic year. In 2008/09 and 2009/10, the increase was around 4%.

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, which is responsible for universities, is to lose £265 million as part of the government’s drive to balance the books. The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants reckons that fees from international students generate between £5.3 billion and £8 billion every year.

There are also concerns that the new immigration cap on non European Union nationals will affect the number of foreign students able to come to study in the UK and also staff levels as it is estimated that over 10% of academic staff are expats from outside the EU.

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