Supporting International Students in Crisis
When serious issues occur suddenly in a students’ home country, it is important that students’ unions, institutions and the UK government respond appropriately to provide support.
NUS is part of a national committee called RISC. RISC is the Responding to International Students in Crisis Committee (RISC). It was launched by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) in summer 2013 following campaigns from student leaders to support international students affected by the conflict in Syria.
NUS will, when possible, put together briefings when there is information that a serious issue in a students’ home country is impacting their student experience here in the UK. These briefings will also contain information on how students’ unions can support international students and when to lobby your University or College for additional support.
Find out which Countries are at RISC
What is RISC?
Much like its predecessor the CHAOS (Conflict and Hardship Affecting Overseas Students) Committee, RISC brings together government bodies with NUS, the Higher Education International Unit and Universities UK with the aim to “issue a cross-government response to any crisis affecting international students within 4 weeks of the issue emerging”. RISC will also call on other appropriate organisations such as UK Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA), and the Council for Assisting Refugee Academics (CARA) if needed.
The RISC Committee deals exclusively with methods of support which require a government response. For example, conflict at home can cause some international students practical challenges like accessing money from home and renewing visas. RISC exists to coordinate efforts by:
- Home Office (Visas, refugee status and rule exemptions)
- Treasury (Sanctions and moving currency)
- Foreign and Commonwealth Office (For embassies or consulates and coordination with other governments)
- Business, Innovation and Skills (Supporting universities and colleges)
The RISC Committee can be called by any member who has identified a serious issue which could impact international students in the UK or in some cases prospective students. NUS has called RISC most recently to support international students from Nigeria, Palestine, Israel, Iraq and Libya. If you become aware of international students at your institution who are experiencing difficulties because of a serious issue in their home country please contact the NUS International Students’ Officer as soon as possible. NUS will bring together anonymised case studies to enable RISC to take action to support these students.
When International Students are at RISC?
For many international students a crisis at home will bring a series of issues, and planning ahead means that your students’ union and institution can provide support quickly and efficiently. Bringing together support services, finance departments and senior institution staff, to meet with you and discuss what you could do to support students in crisis is an excellent initiative which will make a difference for your international students. A clear strategy will also keep you from returning to the partnership table each time your members face a crisis at home.
Not every crisis will require the same response so keep your policy approach flexible and adaptable to fit the needs of students in the changing international environment.
What briefings are currently available?
As international media reported, Nepal was hit with two devastating earthquakes in 2015, resulting in widespread destruction and many deaths. NUS is looking for information from Nepali students and has provided some advice for students’ unions and students.
For over a year Nigerian students funded by bodies linked to the Nigerian government have been experiencing delays in funding, or no funding at all. This has led to hardship and in some cases institutions chasing students for fees they never expected to have to pay. NUS is working with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to resolve the situation but students’ unions need to lobby their institutions to take reasonable actions in relation to these students.
NUS has confirmed a problem with student funding from the Libyan government. In 2014 the Central government in Libya, elected for the first time in 60 years, collapsed. As a result some students and institutions have not received the expected tuition and maintenance funding. Students are reporting levels of hardship as a result of the missed payments.