Coronavirus: The international students facing financial hardship miles from home

  • Report by ITV News Meridian's Social Affairs Correspondent Christine Alsford:

Hundreds of international students have been left thousands of miles from home because of the pandemic.

Many international students in the South are struggling financially and some think their universities are not doing enough to help.

  • Prit Patel - Former Student

Prit Patel's family so prized an education at a British university they were prepared to take out a loan against their farm in India to pay for it.

With payments due and no way to pay they now face losing the family home. 

Prit Patel says he's been struggling during the pandemic. Credit: ITV News Meridian

But Prit, 19, says there's been a lack of understanding here about the dire financial situation his family is in and requests for him to to pay further tuition fees up front left him with no alternative but to give up his studies.

Though he has now received a partial refund from the University of Portsmouth, he says it's been a hugely stressful time. 

  • Deepika - Masters Student

Masters student Deepika is also pushing for a refund, saying she hasn't received the education she was promised at the University of Bournemouth. 

She said: "I got the same online classes that I can get in India, for maybe £1,000 and I paid £14,000. I trusted them that's why I came here. They signed all these agreements, we will take care of this, and this, but I realised that when the time came it wasn't there."

Deepika says for weeks she had to rely on charity handouts to help feed her family including her young daughter while she waited to get a payment from the university's Covid hardship fund. 

Depeeka had to rely on charity handouts for weeks during the pandemic. Credit: Depeeka

Around 300 students have turned to One Community for support. 

The charity has been delivering food parcels to those in need and says it's worried about the plight of many international students from India at Portsmouth, Bournemouth and Southampton Solent universities.

One Community has been supplying food parcels to international students during the pandemic. Credit: One Community

One Community claims that three universities in particular, Bournemouth, Portsmouth and Southampton Solent, need to do more.

The universities say they are offering all sorts of help including financial and emotional support.

The universities told ITV News that they are saddened the complaint has been made and have made several requests to One Community over many weeks to pass on the details of the individuals they are concerned about but say so far they have not. 

The universities also say they have been in contact with Universities UK, the Indian High Commission and Indian student groups and societies in their respective universities throughout the pandemic, and no concerns have been raised by these groups.

Credit: ITV News Meridian

With attendance already expected to be down in the Autumn, universities can ill afford any suggestion that the right support is lacking for those that come to study here.