University of York to accept some international students with lower grades

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The University of York says it will align its policies with those for UK offer holders, but staff members are advised to adopt a “more flexible approach.”

In yet another indication that UK higher education is hard-pressed both financially and in terms of recruiting international students, the University of York has instructed staff to adopt a “more flexible approach” when it comes to admitting these students.

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Staff at Russell Group University were told: “In response to the current financial challenges, the university has decided to lower its tariff for all departments and programs for overseas applicants,” according to an email reported by the Financial Times.

York says that an A-level score of at least 70% is typically required for an undergraduate offer, but it will now accept some international applicants as undergraduates with the equivalent of a B or C at A-level, while admission to postgraduate courses would require a 2:2 award or similar instead of a 2:1.

A York representative stated that the change would align the university’s admissions policy for overseas students with its UK student policy.

The revenue generated by international student fees has become a significant source of money for British universities. Since 2016, tuition costs for domestic students at English universities have been capped, while funding for Scottish universities has been reduced by the national government.

In the meantime, to curb immigration, the UK government is aiming to lower the number of visas granted to foreign students. This year, many international students’ option to bring family members along has been eliminated.

A spokesperson for the University of York said: “The university has not lowered its entry grades for international students and they remain as advertised.

“The change in ‘tariff’ refers to a more flexible approach we are adopting for international offer-holders who miss their grades. We already take a flexible approach for home students after we receive their results.

“This enables us to remain competitive in a global market. It also allows us to take context and individual circumstances into account. This is important for both UK and international students, as we recognize that inequalities of place and background limit opportunities to evidence ability and potential.”

York said it had put extra resources, such as additional math support, in place “for all students who are joining us with grades lower than their offer.”.

Due to the government’s policies, several universities reported finding it harder to attract more international students in the face of growing competition from rivals like Canada and Australia.

Coventry University is one of the latest to protest, stating in its annual report last month: “The UK government’s response to issues around migration and the economy in recent months has had an impact on the group’s recruitment of international students.”

Russell Group institutions report that, with fees frozen at £9,250 annually, they lose, on average, around £2,500 teaching UK students. Consequently, universities have seen a surge in the number of international students, whose tuition is not capped and can be up to £10,000 more than that of local students.

In 2022–23, University College London’s tuition fee income increased by 17% to £929 million, “with the rise almost exclusively driven by growth in the full-time international student base,” according to its latest financial statements.

In comparison to 2021–2022, the University of Liverpool admitted 1,500 more international students last year, increasing its revenue from international tuition fees from £113 million to £151 million, nearly surpassing the £165 million it received from UK and EU student fees.

But the income of institutions such as the Open University, which rely more on UK students, has been hit. The Open University recorded an operating deficit of £25m last year but claimed an underlying surplus if pensions and other long-term costs were excluded.

“The cost of living crisis and student behaviors post-pandemic meant a reversal of the growth in student numbers seen in recent years,” the Open University said, adding that it expected a further decline in student numbers this year.

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