Indians may have been issued the largest number of UK students visa this year but finding accommodation and surviving in cities where their colleges or universities are based has become a challenge for international students with the increase in inflation. According to students and industry experts, the study abroad journey has become a bumpy road for the students who have just moved to the country making it no less than a nightmare to have no roof over their heads in a country that is completely alien to them.
Their woes aren't limited to finding an affordable accommodation but also surviving amid continuously rising food inflation which has increased their daily expenses. UK inflation jumped to a record high in 2022. The Consumer Prices Index, including owner occupiers' housing costs (CPIH), rose by 8.8 per cent in the 12 months upto September 2022. As per the November stats by the Office for National Statistics, the inflation rate sky-rocketed at 9.3 per cent.
According to British High Commission's statistics, India has now overtaken China as the largest nationality being issued sponsored study visas in the UK. Indians received the largest number of UK student visas at 1.27 lakh for the year ending in September 2022. "I was forced to spend around Rs 1 lakh while shifting between Airbnbs between October 1 to October 21 last year and had over 10 in-person viewings for accommodation after arriving in London. I was out everyday on weekdays too after college," said Chayanika Dubey, who flew to the UK three months back to pursue Masters in Administration and Cultural Policy at the Goldsmiths University of London.
Students battling with high prices
Naman Makkar, a student currently pursuing MSc in International Business at Aston University in Birmingam, tries to stay optimistic while battling such high prices. "With the current inflation rates, keeping my expenses to a minimum is a challenge in itself. I tend to focus on the essentials, but do try to take care of my cravings at times, because when you are away from home, you cannot afford to neglect the importance of self-care," he said.
Ria Jain, who completed her bachelor's 7 years ago from the UK and has once again chosen the very same place to pursue further studies, said, "Seven years ago I was spending same amount on food for atleast two weeks that I am spending for quantity of food that would probably last not more than four days". Jain is pursuing MSc in Project Management from University of Northampton.
The unfolding scenario is also making some study abroad aspirants apprehensive about choosing the country as their destination. Skandha Rajeev, a class 12 student, said, "Ever since class six I have always dreamt of doing my Bachelors from the UK and preparing accordingly. But with the constant financial crisis in the country I decided to go for a realistic approach by choosing a less inflated country as compared to the UK".
Popular choice of study abroad destinations
"With a constant increase in prices, expectations and pressure increase too. As a student in a new country I would rather focus on my studies than to worry about how much allowance I am left with," he said. Rajeev has instead chosen to study Electronics Engineering from Canada after finishing school. Anubhav Seth, AVP, Career Launcher, however, feels that a massive shift in the popular choice of study abroad destinations is unlikely.
"The US, UK, Canada and Australia remain top destinations for students going abroad for higher education. Higher visa rejection rates for student applications to Canada and ease of applications for the UK have caused shifts among significant destinations, with UK emerging as the favourite. However, destinations such as UAE, Italy, Germany, Turkey, and Malaysia are quickly becoming hot destinations but a complete shift is unlikely," he said.
His thoughts were echoed by Ankit Mehra, CEO and Co-founder of GyanDhan, an education financing company, who said the changes introduced by the UK Home Office for the Student visa do not directly impact Indian students' prospects of studying in the UK. "The UK will not become less favourable anytime soon.
Increase in loan amount
The country is gaining traction owing to the implementation of the graduate route and the High Potential Individual visa route. "But the rising cost of living has increased the financial burden on students abroad. It has led to a jump in the demand for top-up loans. Lenders have also increased the loan amount limit to pursue education abroad," Mehra said.
Amit Singh, Founder of UniAcco, a global platform that helps students find the right accommodations, claimed that UK for the last 8-10 years has been going through a housing crisis, which has been putting pressure on the residential stock of real estate. "In the last 4-5 years, the councils have come up very strongly against landlords leasing their accommodations to students. If you are a student and want to land up in the UK, take up an accommodation like how PGs operate in India, such possibilities have only been shrinking," he said.