#International Affairs
UK Government
United Kingdom

HOST UK is having its core funding withdrawn and may have to close within a year. This will be devastating for the thousands of international students who apply to HOST for a weekend visit in a British home, and for the hundreds of volunteer host families who offer them hospitality.

Every year more than 300,000 International Students come to this country to study at our universities. Choosing to study outside one’s own country is not just about formal education: the students also hope to familiarise themselves with a different culture, by immersing themselves in it. Unfortunately, the high concentration of international students on their courses, and the lack of occasion to get to know people beyond the campus, mean that they often return home without gaining this valuable experience. Less than 3% ever experience family life in a British home.

HOST was founded by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, The British Council and The Victoria League in 1987 with the aim of fostering international friendships and promoting cultural understanding between nations, by enabling students to meet residents of Britain in their own homes. We have developed a network of Volunteer Regional Organisers in order to link students with volunteer host families, who act as ambassadors for Britain by sharing their way of life for a weekend or at Christmas.

In the past 20 years, more than 35,000 international students have benefited from this scheme. The opportunity to spend a few days living as a member of a British family, joining in their activities and learning at first hand about our customs and beliefs, makes the students feel welcome in this country and has been proved to contribute to a successful outcome of their studies here. (UKCOSA Report ‘Broadening Our Horizons’ 2004). Indeed, the demand for HOST visits is greater than we can supply.

HOST is unique in enabling UK universities and colleges to offer extra value in a way unmatched by any other country, perhaps tipping the balance when it comes to choosing a country in which to study.

The benefits these visits bring, as students return to their own countries should not be underestimated. As the graduates progress into senior positions in government, industry and the professions, their happy memories of the time spent with a HOST family engender positive feelings towards the United Kingdom and all things British. It is worth noting, as the Prime Minister seeks to encourage links with China, that more than 38% of students applying for HOST visits are Chinese.

Until now HOST has received £140,000 per annum from the British Council – surely the best value public relations campaign the Government has ever had! This grant is being phased out due to the Government’s policy of not giving block grants to NGOs, and HOST now faces imminent demise.

Whilst HOST raises over 55% of its funding through its own efforts, the £140,000 provided the stability to pay staff salaries. We have already made our Chief Executive redundant in a recent cost-cutting exercise. We are doing all we can to raise the extra funding, but cannot afford professional fundraising help. We have also found that, because of our unique nature, we do not drop into any of the categories that grant makers will fund.

HOST looks to the government to consider whether it can afford to lose the value of HOST at so small a price.

We the undersigned call upon the Chancellor of the Exchequer to look again at the withdrawal of HOST’s funding and to re-instate the £140,000 per annum needed to keep HOST financially viable.

The Save HOST UK - welcoming international students petition to UK Government was written by HOST UK and is in the category International Affairs at GoPetition.