Triple uncertainty puts the brakes on international students’ plans to study in UK

Triple uncertainty puts the brakes on international students’ plans to study in UK

  • Housing Hand reports international students are “holding back”
  • Travel restrictions, potential double vaccination requirement and housing shortage all causes for concern
  • New immigration route provides option for international graduates to launch UK careers

UK rental guarantor service Housing Hand has raised concerns that international students, especially European students, are holding back their plans to come to the UK to study.

“We are working with many international students looking to study in the UK. However, the uncertainty around travel restrictions/quarantine requirements and what universities will be offering in terms of face to face, blended learning or virtual lectures is leading to some students holding back. The additional uncertainty over whether students will need to be double jabbed to attend lectures has created a further cause for concern for many of those due to start courses in the UK this autumn.”

James Maguire, Head of Sales and Business Development, Housing Hand

Travel restrictions are the first hurdle to overcome. Changing rules around quarantine requirements are creating plenty of uncertainty and making it difficult for international students to plan ahead effectively, though the recent announcement around EU and US travellers not needing to quarantine if they have been double jabbed should help somewhat. There’s also the uncertainty of how easy it will be to return home for the holidays, once they’ve arrived in the UK to commence their studies.

“We’ve seen that when the guidance is clear, it leads to increased activity. When Portugal was added to the UK’s travel green list in May, we saw high demand from Portuguese students. They were second only to UK students in terms of applications here at Housing Hand for our rental guarantor services. International students need that level of clarity in order to plan ahead.”

James Maguire, Head of Sales and Business Development, Housing Hand

Recent confusion over whether or not students will need to be double jabbed before they can attend lectures and stay in halls isn’t helping. Education Minster Vicky Ford has so far said that students won’t need to be fully vaccinated but also that being fully vaccinated, “is the way that they can have that freedom and confidence that they’ll be able to have that full university life.”

“This lack of clarity over the need to be fully vaccinated has thrown up another barrier to international students, who now have to worry about whether they will be allowed to attend lectures or stay in halls. Even for those who have had both jabs, there will be the worry of how they will be required to evidence this in a format that is acceptable to the UK authorities.”

Terry Mason, Group Operations Director, Housing Hand

Despite all of this, UCAS has seen a record number of students – including mature students and those from overseas – apply for university places for the 2021/22 academic year. The total stands at 682,000 applicants, of whom 311,000 are UK 18-year-olds (another record, and an increase of 10% over the 281,000 who applied last year).

This creates a further issue for international students: housing. The UK has a well-documented shortage of housing for its growing population – a situation made worse by the pandemic.

“This year we’ve seen a sharp decline in the number of rental homes coming onto the market. Would-be tenants are now faced with significantly less choice, which in turn is pushing up rents. And with many landlords having multiple offers on the table, half of investors have been able to increase the rent they charge.”

Aneisha Beveridge, Head of Research, Hamptons

Add into the equation those landlords turning their properties into short-term lets to take advantage of the staycation boom, and questions quickly arise about precisely where these record numbers of students are going to live.

Housing Hand’s free House Finder Service at least goes some way to addressing this. The new service matches students with agents and landlords who are specifically seeking student renters, easing the process of finding accommodation in the UK. All of the agents accept Housing Hand as a guarantor, meaning that students won’t face the stumbling block of not having a guarantor when they find the property they want to rent.

For those international students who can overcome the hurdles of travel restrictions, potential double vaccination requirements and finding housing to access higher education in the UK, there is good news to look forward to when they graduate. As of 1 July 2021, a new immigration route means that international graduates can remain in the UK for up to two years to kickstart their careers.

Designed as a talent retention scheme, the graduate route doesn’t require applicants to have a job offer and there is no minimum salary. Graduates can switch jobs and work flexibly during their stay, providing plenty of potential to build their careers. There is also some Covid-related flexibility around when students must arrive in the UK, with those who start courses this autumn having until 6 April 2022 to arrive in the UK.

“The deadline extension sends out a strong message to those looking to complete their studies and launch their careers in the UK. Now the government just needs to boost that messaging by providing international students with the clarity and certainty they need in relation to travel, quarantine, vaccinations and housing – and it needs to do so fast.”

James Maguire, Head of Sales and Business Development, Housing Hand

For more information, please contact Housing Hand today on +44 (0) 207 205 2625 or visit