Blog: Perspectives on My Right to Study

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In July, the StARS+ programme and Student Services launched My Right to Study, taking visa checks for international students online.

Replacing the in-person checks of previous Welcomes, the new service has in its first three months proven to be a real success for both students and staff alike. Below are three different perspectives on this year's Right to Study process, and how it compares to the experience of previous years.

Wei-Lun Chen, international student 

"When I first joined the University a few years ago, I had to queue up in the Welcome Hub to complete my Right to Study check. Having applied for a visa extension this year, I was required to carry out the process again, this time online, and noticed how much simpler and more pleasant the experience was.

My Right to Study allowed me to easily upload my immigration documents onto the student intranet, and within an hour I received an approval email from a member of the International Student Team.

In my role as International Officer for the Guild, I have received feedback from other students who underwent the process recently, and they agree that the system is quick and easy to use."

Robert Martin, International Student Co-Ordinator 

"My team and I are really happy with the new service.

Last November, we were still trying to tackle the backlog created by the in-person Right to Study checks that took place that September. The sheer volume of visa documentation to process and number of steps to follow often required us to work evenings and weekends.

With My Right to Study, the checks are now staggered across the year, with students uploading their documents as and when they receive them, and all in a single location. This has simplified the process to such a degree that we no longer require extra hours or staff to complete the checks.

Even when we receive an influx of documents from students in a short space of time – as we did recently, with 2,500 students submitting documentation over a period of five days – each check now takes an average of one and a half minutes, and the process can take place as part of business as usual."

Kelly Hamilton, Deputy Director of Student Affairs

"The Right to Study process is key to ensuring we remain compliant with our Home Office Sponsor duties. With increasing numbers of international students, and changing immigration regulations, our old processes for managing this had become cumbersome.

We pride ourselves in having developed a great Welcome experience for our new students, with feedback always extremely positive. Every morning of last year's Welcome, however, there were lengthy queues forming before the marquee doors opened. In evaluating Welcome 2019, we committed to improve this for 2020, as this was not the experience that any of us wanted for our international students. It also had a significant impact on staff morale, with a seemingly endless queue during much of the Welcome period.

StARS+ and Student Services worked collaboratively on the development of My Right to Study and the outcome has been excellent. This year, we were able to make Welcome purely about welcoming our new students and giving them a positive experience, rather than requiring them to carry out admin tasks. Whereas in previous years these checks required a physical marquee and queues, this year they were carried out by students self-serving from wherever they were in the world. Feedback from our international students about the new service has been very positive.

Additionally, the previous process involved staff from across the University supporting the marquee activity. This year, the whole process was managed by the International Student Team. We also no longer had the additional complexity of students needing to undertake face-to-face checks, which in light of COVID-19 has been a major relief. It is really pleasing to report that the experience of our students and staff has significantly improved as a result of My Right to Study."

Challenging ourselves to simplify

In developing and delivering My Right to Study at speed over the summer, StARS+ and Student Services wanted to improve the service in time to help students and staff this year, when the pressures are greater and more complex than ever. Hearing from some of those directly involved, it is great to see that that objective has been achieved.

The upheaval that we have all faced this year as a result of the pandemic has presented countless new challenges, many of which could not have been tackled without simplifying where possible. In this vein, My Right to Study has enabled the International Student Team to focus on providing personalised responses to an ever-growing number of student queries, and given international students one less thing to worry about when they arrive on campus.

My Right to Study therefore serves as a great example of how challenging ourselves to rethink what we do and how we do it makes us more resilient to future uncertainty and change. 

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