Culture Editor Ally Azizi on King’s lacklustre support for international students during the pandemic.

King’s is known to have a large international student community, but have they provided them the appropriate support? Roar published a survey asking international students about their university experience during the pandemic and the difficulties faced during the academic year. The results were concerning.

Difficulties

Of the 23 responses collected, about 61% are studying remotely in their home country while 39% are in London. Most of them have faced issues such as weak internet connection, uncomfortable working environments, different time zones and lack of access to reading material and software. All of these factors have made their learning experience harder. As an international student myself, I was able to empathise with these problems as they have disrupted my studies too.

It is undeniable that final year students have been hit the hardest. A third year Pharmacology student expressed, “Being unable to access the library for textbooks or computers for certain softwares that can’t be downloaded onto our laptops as well as not having the lab experiences (that plays a huge part in some modules especially dissertations and/or final year projects), has had its impact”.

A final year European Politics student agrees, saying: “Although I do somehow get the point, not being able to go to one of King’s Libraries more than twice a week can really be a burden. This is especially the case for final year students. Borrowing a book is also way harder than it used to be”. Something that was once so easy and convenient has turned into a hassle and burden.

Weak internet connection is a prominent problem among students as it causes lack of motivation and stress – a second year PPE student said that their connection cuts them off from seminars and often discourages them from participating. Less participation in seminars means students find it more challenging to consolidate knowledge in preparation for exams. With all of that in mind, are the £20,000+ fees really worth it?

What’s worse than not being able to attend seminars? A second year Computer Science student stated that: “The lecturers were just not up to the task of teaching properly, and many of us ended up teaching ourselves…there’s one lecturer that most students agree to be very hard to follow and doesn’t answer questions, and when they do, they would just reply with ‘it’s in the slides’.” Students attend university to be taught a high-quality education by experts and professionals, they can’t be expected to have their courses self-taught.

It is important to note that not all lecturers have responded poorly to online teaching. There were some who “have been amazing, putting out very informative and helpful lectures, setting up virtual office hours and answering questions on the discussion forums,” or some who sent out emails regularly to check on their mental health and well-being.

The Elephant in the Room: Fees

Everyone knows that international students pay extremely high fees (more than double the UK fees) and this hasn’t changed during the pandemic. All of the respondents felt that King’s should have reduced tuition fees this year. Sayali Marathe, a final year History student, believed that international students were not receiving a “world-class education” and that “it’s unfair that she is having to pay for a sub-par quality [education]”.

Many agreed with Sayali and are asking what’s the point of paying such high fees when students are not able to receive a supposedly prestigious education? And what about those studying in their home country and are unable to access King’s facilities in London? Why should students have to pay for something that they’re not using?

What has King’s done?

Many students have lamented the poor support that the KCLSU has provided to students during the pandemic, as Roar writer Louis Jacques argued. The aforementioned European politics student said that there was a “lack of communication” which left many students in limbo. “We had to wait until the beginning of January to actually be informed on how they were going to handle online learning, safety nets and so on. I understand this is not something you can deal with in less than a week, but we did not receive clear updates.” In terms of mental health, there were events that were organised to improve this, but they proved insufficient.

Many students have not sought help from King’s, due to the lack of transparency regarding getting support. Sayali applied for the university’s “Covid Hardship Fund” and found that its procedure was straightforward and easy to follow. However, she was only made aware of it after emailing King’s. Had she not taken the initiative to contact the university, she would not have known about the assistance available to her. It begs the question of whether King’s is even interested in helping its international students.

This article shows the lack of support from King’s towards international students at a surface level. It goes without saying that international students have been hit the hardest by having to pay high fees for a low-quality education that has caused an overwhelming amount of stress and anxiety. On a final note, I want to stress that not every international student is a ‘crazy rich Asian’ or from a wealthy family. There are many who have taken out loans or are on scholarships to be able to study at prestigious institutions. This stereotype should be left in the past.

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