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International student experiences and the impact of COVID

The survey will take no more than 15 minutes to complete.

Project Leads

Principal Investigator: Dr Gunjan Sondhi
Contact email: gunjan.sondhi@open.ac.uk

Co-Investigator: Professor Parvati Raghuram
Contact email: parvati.raghuram@open.ac.uk

If you have any concerns

You can contact the project leads above. You can also contact the Head of Geography, Open Univesrity, Dr Shonil Bhagwat at Shonil.Bhagwat@open.ac.uk, (0)1908 654456

Invitation to Participate

You are being invited to take part in a research study by completing an online survey questionnaire. 

Before you decide whether to take part, it is important for you to understand why the research is being done and what it will involve. Please take time to read the following information carefully.

The project is about the experiences of international students in the current COVID crisis. 

Choosing to either take part or not take part in the study will have no impact on your marks, assessments, or future studies.

This research looks at how international students in the UK have been influenced and affected by the Covid-19 pandemic and global lock-down. Although there has been marked concern about how different demographics and groups have been affected by Covid-19, the impact on international students has been neglected. This project aims to address that gap and to give voice to student experiences, in order to better support you. 

More details on the project, why it is being done and what your participation will involve are given below. We hope you will find it useful in will help you to decide whether you want to participate in this study.

General information about the research study and collected research data

Purpose of the research: The purpose of the research is to capture the experiences of international students during the Covid-19 lock-down, as well as their experiences as lock-down restrictions are lifted. The research will result in targeted, evidence-based recommendations to the UK Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA), the UK Higher Education sector and national-level migration policy-makers, in order to better support international students in the UK. 

Funding: The project is funded by The Open University’s Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, through the Faculty’s Strategic Research Investment Fund.

External partner: The UK Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA) is supporting the project by providing advice to the research team and promoting the online survey through its professional networks. UKCISA (UK Council for International Student Affairs) is the UK’s national advisory body supporting international students and those who work with them. UKCISA members include every university in the UK and many students’ unions. UKCISA directly advises students on up-to-date information about immigration rules, fees, government student support and living and working in the UK through their website and student advice helpline.

The Open University is the Data Controller for the personal data that you provide. UKCISA will not have access to the data you provide. 

Timeframe: The data collection part of the study will run for 2 months. See below for information about the timeframe for data processing, storage and GDPR. 

What will I be asked to do if I agree to take part?

Your participation in this study will involve answering a short online survey questionnaire. The questionnaire will take about 15 minutes to complete.

Survey questionnaire topics: The topics within the survey are all aspects of your personal experience of the Covid-19 pandemic and global-lockdown, including: 

  • What options you felt you had in terms of staying in the UK or travelling home or elsewhere;
  • Any impacts on your migration status;
  • The impact on your studies and educational experience;
  • The impact on your financial arrangements;
  • Impacts on housing/accommodation; 
  • Your experiences, if any, of isolation, social exclusion, prejudice or racism;
  • The extent and quality of institutional support you have received;
  • Insight into your future intentions.

If participating in the survey causes you distress: The pandemic and lock-down has been a disruptive and challenging experience for many international students. If participating in the study causes you distress, you can contact the counselling service offered by your university. However, if they have a long waiting list, then please consider contacting one of the following organizations: 

The survey questionnaire and confidentiality: the survey data will be collated, analysed and the findings published in a project report and peer reviewed academic journals. However, no individual data (i.e. nothing about you personally) will be identifiable.

Anonymity: The information you give us will be separated from your name (anonymized), so that what you say cannot be linked to your name in any report or publication.

Voluntary Participation: Your participation in the study is completely voluntary.  

Withdrawal from the Study:  You can stop participating in the study at any time, for any reason, up until the time all data have been aggregated for analysis (31 October, 2020). After this point withdrawal is not possible. You do not have to tell us why you want to withdraw from the study. 

In the event you withdraw from the study, any information you have given us, including your name and contact details, will be immediately destroyed in accordance with the University’s information and record management guidelines. 

If you choose to withdraw during the survey, please click the ‘withdraw survey’ button. If you want to withdraw from the study after completing the survey, please email any member of the project team (contact details shown above).

Benefits and Risks:  There are no identifiable personal risks to you. You could benefit in the long run through improved decision making around international students in the contemporary crisis. 

Option to participate in an in-depth interview: The survey will give you a choice to participate further via an in-depth interview with a member of the research team. Depending on your preference, the interview can be conducted via telephone, Skype or Microsoft Teams. With your permission, we will record the interview. The interview will cover the same topics as the questionnaire, but in more depth. 

Outputs from the study: These include a project report to be shared with UKCISA, other UK Higher Education institutions and national-level migration policy-makers (organizations may share the findings as they see fit).  We will also publish the findings in academic peer-reviewed journals. All publications will be public facing, i.e. not behind a paywall. The findings of the project will also be shared via the official social media profiles of the project team and those of The Open University. The survey will give you the opportunity to opt-in (via a button) to receiving an email about the project’s findings 

How will the data I provide be used?

Data processing: data will be collected, collated, aggregated and anonymized (removal of personally identifying information) using the third party Qualtrics data management platform. Qualtrics complies with UK/EU data protection regulations.

Storage and sharing: As per The Open University’s Research Data Management Policy (effective from 01/12/2018) for internally funded projects, the digital data collected will be stored on a secure Open University server, and any printed versions of that data will be stored in locked staff offices at The Open University campus in Milton Keynes, UK. No raw data will be stored or shared outside the EU.

Data retention: as per The Open University’s data Retention Schedule guidance, the data will be stored at least until completion of analysis of responses. However, because multiple analyses may be undertaken, and in case questions are raised after publication/dissemination of the findings, the raw data and consent forms will be kept until 31 December 2027. 

At the end of the project, the fully anonymized survey will be deposited in a specialist ESRC data centre, so it can be used for future research and learning. The fully anonymized data will also be kept indefinitely, on secure OU servers, for future re-use. 

These protocols are in accordance with the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) of 25/05/18. 

Data Protection

The Open University is the Data Controller for the personal data that you provide. UKCISA will not have access to the data you provide. 

The lawful reason for processing your data will be that conducting academic research is part of the Open University’s public task. The consent we request from you relates to ethical considerations.

You have a number of rights as a data subject:

  • To request a copy of the personal data we have about you
  • To rectify any personal data which is inaccurate or incomplete
  • To restrict the processing of your data
  • To receive a copy of your data in an easily transferrable format (if relevant)
  • To erase your data
  • To object to us processing your data

If you are concerned about the way we have processed your personal information, you can contact the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO). Please visit the ICO’s website for further details.

How do I agree to take part?

If you are willing to participate in the study via the survey questionnaire, you will be asked to complete the ‘Participant Consent’ form before you proceed with the online questionnaire. 

Take the Survey

This research project, titled International student experiences and the impact of COVID, has been reviewed by, and received a favourable opinion, from the OU Human Research Ethics Committee – HREC reference number: 3610/Sondhi

If you have read the information above and agree with it, click to go to the survey.