Saudis to advise students to avoid UK universities
Daily Times Monitor
LAHORE: The Saudi Arabian embassy in London will advise its nationals to boycott British universities in protest over financial irregularities, exorbitant fees and poor teaching, the Observer reported.
Amelia Hill, the British weekly newspaper’s education correspondent, writes that other foreign embassies also have complaints about the way their students are treated by British universities, but do not wish to speak out for fear the universities will retaliate against their students.
Saudi Arabia’s concerns centre around money-grabbing ploys foreign students are subject to. The Observer reported earlier that degrees were being sold to failing foreign students because they pay far more in fees than local students.
The UK is currently the second most popular destination for foreign students after the US, with 270,000 foreigners studying at British universities, paying up to six times as much for their courses as British students.
“We are currently experimenting with sending students to universities in New Zealand and Australia instead of Britain and if they have a good experience, we will advise future students to go there instead of to the UK,” said Abdullah Anassah, the head of academic affairs for the Saudi Arabian embassy.
An unnamed embassy said it had contacted the vice-chancellor of a London university to demand an investigation into claims by one of their nationals that her supervisor approved her work for four years but then refused to grant her a degree.
“This is just one example of many but in this particularly case, our student was unable to gain any real attention from her supervisor for four years,” said the official. “She was simply told her work was fine but when she submitted her final thesis, she was suddenly informed it was of such an inferior quality that the past four years had been a waste of time.
“If this was true, why was she not told at the time that she was doing something wrong?” he said. “Surely this is down to the university wanting to get as much money out of us as possible without care for the quality of the education they gave in return?”
British universities, anticipating a cut in government funding after the introduction of top-up fees in 2006, are increasingly anxious to recruit foreign students, who, unlike British students, pay full fees worth an average £16,000 a year.
Of the 33,000 international students who come to Britain every year, generating an income estimated at £600million, 2,500 are Saudi nationals.
The Saudi embassy stopped sending students to Sheffield University three years ago after the university refused to back down over charges of £5,000 they made in addition to £9,000 tuition fees.
The embassy was told the extra fees were to cover so-called “consumable materials” such as bacteria that were necessarily destroyed in the course of one student’s research project.
“Sheffield gave us a breakdown of what these fees were for but when we queried the list, we were sent another for the same amount with alternative items added instead,” said Anassah.
The Saudi embassy began sending students to Sheffield again this year but Anassah has also experienced two examples where supervisors from another UK university demanded two payments of what was supposed to be a one-off fee of £2,500.
Anassah and the other embassies admitted they were often forced to agree to the demands of the universities for fear of their students being asked to leave before their degree was completed.
Sheffield University admitted there had been difficulties with students from Saudi Arabia but insisted the problems are being investigated and resolved. “We are in ongoing discussions [with the Saudi embassy] to ensure complete clarity,” said Tim Crick, director of student recruitment and admissions.