Lack of Jobs & High Rents: How Indian Students Are Finding It Hard to Survive in UK, Canada, Australia – News18

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Despite having a scholarship that covers most of his fees, Akshay (name changed on request), a native of Kerala, is finding it hard to meet his daily needs and is forced to seek monetary help from his middle-class parents.

“I am studying Bachelor in Health Science with a major in neuro-science. My current annual academic fee is equivalent to the fee charged by the US or Canada-based colleges in a month for similar courses. My high grades have helped me secure a scholarship which reduces the academic tuition fee but I could not estimate the cost of living correctly,” said Akshay who is currently in the third year of his course.

Having stayed in Melbourne, Australia, since January 2022, Akshay says the rent and other living expenses are at an “all-time high” accompanied by the student influx.

After bunking with his friends for three weeks, he has been forced to stay in a shared room which costs him 400 AUD per month. If he wants a separate room, he will have to move further into the suburbs. While the room rents there will be lower, it would take him two hours one-way to reach his university.

Since he is considering taking research in neuro-science as a major, he has to put in extensive hours at the university, leaving little room for a job. “There are very few jobs, which are flexible and can be taken with the university. While there are prospects after the course, the living situation right now is difficult to manage.”

Skipping meals and relying on free cafeteria coffee is a go-to for Akshay and his friends. Most of them are forced to choose between dedicating time to studies or working odd shifts to survive.

Those whose families cannot afford to send dollars every month often work for a job that pays lower than the prescribed minimal wage by the government, however, offer working hours that suit the student’s schedule. This is illegal as it not only violates the visa rules of students but also puts the employer under the scanner of labour law authorities.

The major chunk of earnings, according to students, goes on housing. While universities cannot offer housing to everyone. Even among the rooms available, the rent is too high for Indian students to afford.

“Houses outside the varsity are allotted based on a point system, which includes your salary and work hours. We cannot have higher salaries and have limited working hours, as per the visa rules. Thus, it is extremely difficult for students to get quality housing on our own,” Akshay told News18.

High Rent Need Higher Credit Scores in Canada

The situation is pretty similar in other popular study destinations including the UK, and Canada, among others.

When Simran Pasricha, a 30-year-old working professional moved to Ontario to pursue a Master’s in Data Analytics for Business, she spent the majority of her savings in the Airbnb she was living in for the first part of her stay.

“One can opt for websites and platforms to look for houses beforehand, however, the pictures are often misleading. Houses here are made of wood and issues of bugs is very common. How many people will share bathrooms, what kind of bugs are there are issues, which can be known only after visiting the property,” she told News18.

“With work restrictions, rents are high for any student and worse for those who stay within these work limits. I am a freelance and no broker would help me find a house as they prefer full-time employees with high credit scores,” she said.

The rents have seen a rise in recent months, the situation is worse in major cities such as Toronto, she informed. University accommodations are limited and often out of budget for most.

While she moved with an ambition of having a better lifestyle, ironically, to match up to the levels of her rented accommodation back home, Pasricha still has to wait for her degree and a full-time job. She is currently a freelancer.

Inflation, Brexit at Play in the UK

The situation is worse for those applying for the UK as the political instability has resulted in volatile market.

A young working professional, who moved to the UK, told News18 on condition of anonymity, “The rents here are high. Things are getting expensive by the day. A bag of rice increased from 7 GBP to 11 GBP within days. Businesses are closing. This not only impacts the shops, but also the international students who rely on such places to work at after college.”

“Getting new accommodations is very expensive. Rents have gone up since we moved here. I also wish to shift but it’s better to stay where you are and give a small hike in annual rent, instead of getting a newer contract made. If we have more roommates to reduce the rent, then we would have to pay a higher corporation tax, which is counter-productive and hence students end up paying high rent, irrespectively.”

Experts believe that a large number of international students have made a shift towards the UK over the past couple of years which has resulted in high demand for accommodation. All this while the supply is not increasing at a similar rate.

Since the Covid-19 period, many students who would have flown to Australia due to tight travel restrictions chose the UK as the universities there have performed better in ranking as well as the nation offers better post-study work opportunities.

Amit Singh, co-founder of UniAcco — an online platform that provides premium student accommodation globally, said, “Due to the high intake of students, places like Glasgow have been sold off in April. These areas did not have high demand three years ago. On the contrary, Nottingham used to be sold off by June and this year they had 40% vacancy till August. The market is volatile and ever-changing based on student preference, hence there is no instant solution.”

He further said since the UK is grappling with steep inflation, political tension, and Covid-19, the cost of living in general has grown too. Further, the inflation after Brexit and other factors are also playing into effect.

Has Covid Changed the Dynamics?

“As Covid-19 restrictions have lifted from many other countries including China, the influx of students abroad has increased. Traditionally, Chinese students go for similar courses as their Indian counterparts, but spend considerably more money compared to them. With the fewer restrictions, the competition for not just seats in colleges but also accommodation has also gone up. This gives the impression that there has been a shortage of accommodation. Further, there has been an increase in rents after Covid-19,” said Saurabh Goel and Madhur Gujar, Co-Founders at Amber — global student accommodation providers.

“After the pandemic, most of the things have seen a sharp rise in cost. Property owners incurred losses during Covid-19 and they are now pricing their offerings higher. To have a better deal, students need to start early. House rent goes up to 30 to 40% of your living expense, it is only smarter move to deal with it beforehand, especially when you are competing with students from other nationalities having higher currency value,” said Saurabh Arora, Founder & CEO of University Living. He even suggested that booking in January as opposed to August can give students about a 30% better deal.

Amit Singh, co-founder of UniAcco, called the trend momentary and said things will start to look better from the next academic year. “It is not a blanket crisis. While there are certain pockets that have higher demand while other areas have low rent and cost of living due to less demand. Students can either travel more and rent a place further away or pay more and live closer to the varsity. But as the rankings and preferences change, things will start to stabilise too”.



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