A fellow student publication has revealed that international students may soon have to pay for NHS services. An investigation by Cardiff University paper ‘Gair Rhydd’ found that the £150 annual fee will be paid as part of the student visa – meaning that future international students will have to pay regardless of whether they actually use the NHS during their stay. The plans are part of a wider Government strategy to clamp down on “health tourism” in the UK, which will also see non-student migrants from outside the EU have to pay for treatment.
The plans will affect non-EU international students, who already pay astronomical amounts in tuition fees and contribute significantly to the UK economy. The bizarre implication from the Government is that they are studying in the UK simply to gain access to our welfare and healthcare system, which the Home Office describes as “very generous, particularly when compared with international practice.” It is difficult to understand why anyone would choose to pay thousands of pounds per year in tuition fees – Glasgow currently charges international students between £13,500 and £33,000 per year – in order to access free healthcare services.
Mark Harper, former Health Secretary, defended the Government’s stance with the argument that “the UK has a national health service, not an international health service”. Although health is a devolved issue, the Scottish Government’s stance remains unclear. It appears, however, that the income from the surcharge will be shared between the UK Department of Health and the devolved health authorities.
The NUS has called the plans “discriminatory, counter-intuitive and impractical”, and pointed out the significant economic contributions made by international students in the UK. They have set up a petition against the plans, and encourage students across the country to write to their MPs and the Cabinet ministers responsible for the legislation. In a statement on their website, they warn that the proposals send out “a message that international students are not welcome in the UK and will mean more students will choose to study elsewhere where Government policies and rhetoric increasingly favour international students.”
[Lauren Cummings – @__laurenC]