Coronavirus: Overseas students fear losing university places

Overseas students who enrolled on University of Hertfordshire courses last September must settle their debts on Monday or risk being suspended.

An email to a student, sent last week and seen by BBC News, gives a deadline of 24 August for 100% payment.

The university says it has already extended its payment deadlines.

Hundreds of overseas students from several universities have been relying on food banks since part-time work and family funding ran low during lockdown.

Charity workers who have been helping the students say, of the universities they have been negotiating with, the deadline set by the Hatfield-based institution is currently the earliest.

The university says the extended debt-payment deadlines are pegged to students’ enrolment dates.

“We amended our payment dates to give all students more time to pay both their accommodation and tuition fees – for example, agreed payment plans with students until next enrolment milestone,” it said.

Students who started their courses in January had until December to pay, the university said.

Another letter, sent earlier this month, talks of a student’s access to the university’s academic website being withdrawn but says a decision was made to allow them to continue their studies and the block removed.

“However, if your debt remains and the final instalment of your tuition fees, which are due 24 August 2020, are not paid, you will be debt chased,” it says.

“Your StudyNet will be blocked and you may be withdrawn from your course, if your fees remain unpaid.”

Food parcels

A spokeswoman for the university confirmed on Friday that nothing had changed in the past few days.

But she added: “We are happy to discuss and put payment plans in place for any students affected, to give them more time to repay.”

Newham Community Project, in east London, has been providing food parcels to about 600 students during the pandemic, most in their early 20s and from India.

Many are taking master’s degrees and fear being unable to complete their education.

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