The University of Edinburgh has informed some international student leavers they will need to return home and apply for a new visa from abroad.
That was the advice to students moving on to further UK programmes who completed their studies but don't have an official degree because of national industrial action.
The university said that without an official degree, students aren't allowed to apply for their postgraduate level visa from within the UK.
Instead, they need to return home and apply from there.
In a letter, the university informed international students that there were no concessions in place for those impacted by the national marking and assessment boycott (MAB).
“If your award decision has been deferred due to missing or delayed results, you will be required to return to your home country and obtain another student visa from outside the UK before starting your new programme”
But information from the UK Home Office contradicts that advice.
According to a Home Office spokesperson, students affected by the MAB can obtain a supplementary letter from their university as a stand-in for their degree.
“Students who wish to progress their studies without their results can request a letter of formal written confirmation from their sponsor assessing the student is highly likely to complete their course successfully.”
The spokesperson confirmed that, with this letter, students who are looking to study at a new UK institution will not have to return home in order to apply for a new visa.
I received this email from @EdinburghUni yesterday. I hold a postgraduate offer at LSE, am a US citizen, and will be graduating from Edinburgh Uni this week without a degree, due to the marking and assessment boycott. My entire plan for the coming year has been thrown into chaos. pic.twitter.com/9wccVN8cyD
— Will Scheffler (@will_scheffler_) July 11, 2023
Students who were told by Edinburgh that they would have to return home are left confused and troubled by the financial implications.
Armaan, an international student who has completed studies at Edinburgh, has a conditional offer for a Master's programme at SOAS.
But after receiving the university's guidance this week, he was left thinking there is no choice but to return home or give up hopes for his postgraduate degree.
"I am assuming that I cannot start my Master's next year, and so I have started applying for jobs in the UK.
"I came to study here so that I can work here. It is ridiculous to think that anyone should be happy with going back to their home country, when many students have made an active choice to work and live in the UK after their studies.
"I’m not in a position to go back to India to apply for a student visa. Financially, I just have to find the first job that comes my way, so that I’m not dependent on my parents.
"It feels terrible, because you would think that so much effort has been put in by generations before me so that I can specialise in a field of my choice and which I can excel in, but instead here we are, grasping at straws."
International students who graduate from UK institutions but don't wish to continue their studies can instead apply for a graduate route visa. This allows them to remain in the UK for two more years.
There are extensions and further concessions in place for graduate route applicants whose degrees are delayed by the MAB.
Will Scheffler, an American student set to graduate from Edinburgh but who has had his degree delayed by the marking boycott, said he is not sure what to believe.
“The Home Office's advice completely contradicts what the university told us earlier. This is good news if true, but I can’t believe that Edinburgh didn’t get this right for us.
“In all honesty, I would hope that a student at a university of this calibre and degree of influence would be able to rely on the information they are putting out to me.
“Especially considering something as important as my immigration status.”
Information on the University's webpage for incoming students affected by the MAB mentions the supplementary letter, but not in the context of international students.
Instead, the site tells incoming international students that they must return home and reapply if they need a visa to study in the UK.
“If you are unable to make your visa application from within the UK due to the impact of the marking and assessment boycott, there are no concessions available.
“You will be required to return to your home country and obtain another student visa from outside the UK before starting your new programme.
“This is a condition of UKVI.”
When asked what resources are available to international students, a university spokesman said: "We want to reassure those applying for further study with us that we will support them in relation to the impact the industrial action may have on their success within their chosen programme.
"Our student immigration service is available to support students with their visa applications.”