The main duty and function of your university or college is to provide you with academic services that you have successfully applied for and you are registered to undertake across a specified period of time, ending with your course completion to a specified date (however sometimes this can be extended for exceptional reasons – such as Covid 19 impacts on study and learning — or because you are requested to retake some component of your studies).
However, as explained in a number of sections of this information resource, your university or college, provides other services and functions in addition to course or research study. These include support on accommodation that is hygienic and safe, and free from any element of exploitation or invasion of privacy; on your safety; health and wellbeing; the student experience of living in another country and through all of the facilities and opportunities for broader learning, especially transcultural learning and the making of new friends, and undertaking new or existing sports, arts, hobbies.
In brief, your university or college has duties and responsibilities relating to fees paid for its services, of five kinds:
- Academic services delivery
- Functional services support
- Safety and safeguarding
- Pastoral care
- Having the best possible outcomes of the total international student experience
All of the above, through sets of detailed responsibilities that both the university or college, and the international student (indeed ‘Home’/UK students too), agree for the latter’s study in the UK to commence, and proceed, are described in the related conditions and clauses of the agreement between the student and educational body. However, as all of the agreement, that includes legal and technical terms and phraseology is in the English language, and because at lived experience and operational delivery levels the concepts detailed in the areas above can in practice, as Covid 19 impacts on systems and related communications has demonstrated, confusion, frustration, and sometimes major problems can result because of lack of clarity on how these obligations are discharged.
This is one of the main reasons, reacting to international students lived experiences, why this brief information resource has been created to assist both international students and those providing services to them.
The major departments and service provision topics of international students importance provided by your university or college, are:
- All academic services (though these can also relate to making a complaint on an academic related experience)
- International office
- Advice point/centre
- Fees & Finance
- The Students Union (there is further information on this below), or students support facility in the case of smaller language schools/colleges
In the case of the first six, these are areas where misunderstandings of systems and related communications can occur and have major distraction or anxiety impacts.
Apart from, strictly speaking, the academic services all of the others — including especially the students union/students support facility — can have minor to major direct relevance to Pastoral care and related Duty of Care impacts for the university or college in regard to the international student. Wherever possible record representations and information requests on email for future reference.
Student Union / student support facility — duties and functions relevant to international students needs:
We provide here the UCAS definition of what a Students Union is and what it does … Students’ unions are run by reps elected by students, and they’re responsible for representing you – so you can go to them for all kinds of support.
Societies: Many students’ unions have lots of different clubs and societies you can get involved in – anything from street dance and rowing, to marketing or international.
- These are great for getting to know new people and as extra-curricular activities.
- You can take part in projects, competitions, tournaments, or social events.
Employment opportunities: They often list volunteering and employment opportunities too – either roles within the students’ union or course provider, or external vacancies they recommend. So it’s a handy first place to look if you’re interested in work possibilities.
The National Union of Students (NUS): The NUS is a voluntary membership organisation which promotes, defends and extends the rights of students and develops and champions strong students’ unions. Many students’ unions are part of the NUS (https://www.nus.org.uk/).
Students Unions will have either a dedicated International Students Officer, or an officer on the Students Union team that has international students support as part of his/her/their job function. They should be the starting point in regard to any problems you have that are specific to you as an overseas national / international student. Even if you aren’t satisfied with support, keep the international students officer up to date on emails, and always copy them in on any important email correspondence with the university itself on disagreements or complaints, visa, fee matters, especially on any accommodation related issues, or on racism, homophobia, xenophobia, etc.
We encourage international students to get involved with their student union (standing for a position, attending relevant meetings, etc.) as this will benefit them, but also benefits the students union itself and broader home/UK students community