In this episode of the Help with my visa! Podcast we talk to Ian Moody, Deputy Director – International at the University of Sunderland where he gives his 5 Key Considerations for international students thinking about coming to the UK.
Ian Moody, Deputy Director - International, University of Sunderland
In his role, Ian oversees all international student development at the University of Sunderland for the three campuses in Sunderland (northeast England), London (Canary Wharf) and Hong Kong. His team’s mission is to ensure international students coming to the University of Sunderland get the right information to make informed decisions, arrive safely and have a great educational experience.
Ian notes that despite the Pandemic, demand from international students coming to the UK is “astounding”. They’re still seeing high levels of applications for their major courses in the fields of nursing, business, engineering, computing, education and pharmacy – all teaching skills that the UK Government is promoting through its Skilled Worker visa programme.
The University of Sunderland has invested heavily in these courses, with living laboratories for nursing – including an ambulance that paramedics can train with – and a dispensary pharmacy laboratory. More than £1m has also been spent on engineering laboratories for electrical, mechanical and automotive engineering courses.
Many students come to the University of Sunderland as referrals – that is, from students who’ve studied there previously. This combination of excellent facilities, strong positive word of mouth and a 93.4% employability rate make the University of Sunderland an ideal place for international students.
Key Consideration 1 - Do your research
The first thing Ian suggests international students do when applying to study in the UK is to do your research – and there are two reasons.
Firstly, as an international student you need to be familiar with what you’re signing yourself up for. It’s a big life-changing commitment to come to the UK to study, so you need to be absolutely sure it’s right for you.
And secondly, you’ll be interviewed by a UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) caseworker as part of your UK Student visa application, and you must show that you’re a credible applicant. This means being able to answer questions such as:
- Why do you want to study in the UK?
- What other study options did you consider?
- Why did you choose this UK university of about the 130+ institutions in the country?
- Why did you choose this course of study?
- What else does the university offer that attracted you to it?
- Where is the campus? How will you get there?
So do your research early and make sure you can answer these questions.
Key Consideration 2 - Check your maintenance requirements
You’ll need to financially support yourself during your studies so you need to know what the international student maintenance requirement is – again, for two reasons.
Firstly, you need to have enough funds to support yourself through your studies, covering tuition, accommodation, living expenses, visa and Immigration Health Surcharge fees, etc.
And secondly, demonstrating you meet the maintenance requirement is actually needed for your UK Student visa application.
Ian recommends you checkout the excellent UKCISA website, which gives you detailed information on living expenses in different parts of the UK. Once you’ve determined your international student maintenance requirement, before you apply for your UK Student visa you’ll need to have those funds in your bank account – not a friend’s, parent’s or uncle’s – for at least 28 days, untouched. Ian says this is one of the main reasons why international students get their visas rejected, so you need to make sure you cover it off in good time, even adding an additional £100 or so to make sure you don’t accidentally go under the required balance.
International students can work up to 18 hours per week while studying in the UK, but this income can’t go towards your maintenance requirement for the Student visa.
Key Consideration 3 - English language requirements
To study in the UK as an international student you’ll need to prove your English language competency. At the University of Sunderland, if you’re not from an English-speaking country you need an English language qualification, such as IELTS, TOEFL, etc. or other form of Secure English Language Test (SELT).
The University of Sunderland requires the equivalent of IELTS 6.0 overall with a minimum of 5.5 in each element.
If you just miss out on the IELTS requirement, the University of Sunderland offers an English for Academic Purposes (EAP) course so that international students can top-up their grades. The course is delivered both on-campus and online.
You do 5 weeks of EAP for each 0.5 IELTS level you’re short, and you can start online in your home country then come to the UK to finish.
Ian strongly recommends finishing your EAP course on-campus as you’re surrounded by English, and you also get exposure to the way locals speak as there’s a real diversity of accents in the UK.
Key Consideration 4 - Dependents
Ian says it’s not always possible to bring dependents as an international student so you need to check with your chosen university. At the University of Sunderland, it’s only certain post-graduate courses where this is possible.
There’s also the challenge of finding accommodation for families. Universities typically only have a few places suitable for families, so if you want to live on-campus you’ll need to make early arrangements to secure accommodation.
Cities like Sunderland have a lot of University-approved private accommodation that’s suitable for families, and Ian strongly recommends only using University-approved accommodation as the University is able to help if you experience any issues.
Key Consideration 5 - Be prepared and allow time
Be prepared to arrive on time as it’s crucial to get settled in for induction before your programme starts, otherwise you’ll be on the back foot. So get everything in order as soon as possible.
Ian suggests you take as much control as early as possible by applying for several universities to get conditional offers, as these can’t be taken away. It means you can definitely come to the UK as an international student if you meet the conditions, and you can choose which university you want to study at once you get your grades.
The next step is usually waiting for grades to arrive, and many students switch off during this period, which Ian says is a mistake.
If you’re waiting for grades in August, and your course starts September, if you’re not prepared, such as having your maintenance in your bank account for 28 days, you’ll be late arriving in the UK and start your studies on the back foot.
You need to be in a position to book your flights, arrange your airport pick-up and finalise your accommodation when you get your visa, so don’t leave everything to the last minute – there’s already enough to do!
If you’d like to find out more about studying at the University of Sunderland as an international student you can visit their website, or get in touch with Ian’s team directly at [email protected] where they can put in contact with a local office or let you speak to staff in the UK.
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You can also get professional help preparing your UK Student visa application by using an immigration advisor. Choose from our network of vetted immigration advisors and book an appointment online today to start the process.