As the first cohort of #WeAreInternational Student Ambassadors end their term, we’ve sat down with them to reflect on their experiences. The #WeAreInternational Student Ambassador programme is UKCISA’s student network of global future leaders. We are proud to work with and learn from our Student Ambassadors to help deliver a vision for a world-class international student experience.
Katie Crabtree is a recent graduate of the University of Leeds with a PhD in Philosophy of Education. Katie is from the USA, but has spent many years living in the UK, having completed an MSc at Oxford and an MA at UCL prior to her PhD. Her long-term international student experience and her educational research inform her passion for improving policy for international students in the UK.
As Student Ambassador, Katie has been an integral part in the creation of UKCISA’s upcoming International Student Charter, the UK’s first charter for international students. Heading the International Student Charter Working Group, Katie has been a dedicated and active leader. Together, Katie and I discussed the importance of the new charter, the intersection between her research and role as ambassador, and her future plans on the new Graduate Route visa.
Can you walk us through the International Student Charter?
The charter is essentially a document outlining our vision for a certain standard for the international student experience, and what practices education providers should be engaging in to improve this experience.
There are so many charters in the UK – for example, one on student mental health and another on sexual misconduct – but there is no charter for international students.
I believe that there’s a need for it because the UK has ambitions to recruit even more international students, but international students here tend to file the most official complaints with their universities. This tells me that there’s a problem and a charter is needed.
The charter aims to subtly but not unimportantly change how institutions talk about international students. To put it frankly, it urges institutions to stop thinking about them in terms of tuition.
What’s the future of the charter?
The charter will be launched in the summer of 2022.
Since my ambassador tenure is coming to an end, my goal is to get everything prepared for the next group to take over. I’ve done what I can for the charter. I know it will change, but I’m excited to see what they do with it. I’m hopeful that the major pillars I’ve included in it will stay.
I’m interested in the intersection between your Philosophy of Education studies and your work with UKCISA. How has your educational background influenced your student ambassador work?
My work in Philosophy of Education is critical of how education is understood in the mainstream. Education is largely understood in terms of getting a degree and then a job, but my research problematises this.
I go from criticising this mainstream of education in my PhD to working as a student ambassador with large organisations who fall very much into that mainstream. It’s something I have to navigate.
When it comes to the charter, I’ve worked to ensure that it has kindness, fairness, and inclusion at the heart of it. There’s a reason why we word things the way we do in the charter, the language and principles are super important to me.
Can you tell me about your thoughts on the Graduate Route visa and your plans for the future?
The Graduate Route visa is bittersweet for me because I know that the work I want to go into will never set me up for a Skilled Worker visa, which would allow me to stay in the UK for longer. However, the Graduate Route is a safe way for me to explore different career paths. I’ve been at university for so long, that I want to experience new things that wouldn’t normally meet sponsorship requirements, such as working in care. I need to spend these three years, under the Graduate Route, getting the best experience here before returning to the USA.
I want to become what’s called a Death Doula, or an end-of-life care provider. I have a job with a care agency here and now that I’m on my new visa I can sign the contract. I’ll get hands-on experience, before doing specific Death Doula training. Maybe I’ll open my own practice back in the States.
The International Student Charter will be launched in summer 2022. Find out more about the #WeAreInternational Student Ambassador programme.