In an open letter to Vince Cable, David Willets, and Vice-Chancellors, over 180 students’ unions across the UK have called for in-course fee hikes for international students to be abolished.
A petition has also been launched online.
Daniel Stevens, international officer of the NUS, said, “The unpredictable increase in fees is unfair and exploits this group of students. They put the academic success of many international students at risk each year.
“International students already pay astronomical fees for the privilege of studying here. They are an important part of the social, cultural and academic make-up of university life and should not be treated as cash cows.”
Over half a million international students currently study in the UK – and with over 8,000, the University of Manchester has one of the largest populations, but also, in 2005, became one of the first universities in the UK to fix fees for international students for the duration of their degrees.
The NUS has demonstrated through its own research that “each year up to 175,000 international students in our campuses find their fees increase often without notice”, and that each year over half of universities withhold details of fees to international students.
The research has also shown students are one third more likely to consider dropping out if their fees go up by more than £1000 in the duration of a three year course.
Unlike with UK and EU students, universities have no restriction on the amount of money they can charge in international student fees. Some universities always increase fees in line with inflation, but they are under no legal obligation to do so.
Sebastiaan Debrouwere, president of Kings College London Students’ Union, in the last year has led a successful fight against fee increases of 15 per cent. He has called on all universities to support the NUS campaign.
“Unpredictable fee increases are not only unfair, they may also dissuade many international students from coming to the UK, or force students to drop out,” Debrouwere said. “As an SU, we try to make sure our university is a fair and accessible institution.”