The information on this page covers queries raised by our members and partners. Currently this is broken down into four categories below. We will continue to review these sections as the situation develops:
Please note that we cannot provide formal guidance but we will disseminate government and public health information, signpost to external resources where available, and keep you updated with our work on these issues.
Where the answers to queries are unknown, Universties UK and Universities UK International are working closely with government and our partners across the sector to provide solutions as quickly as possible.
Please feel free to share and repurpose the information below.
If you have any questions or concerns related to international activity which are not covered on this page, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Latest Health Protection Scotland advice.
Specific government advice:
The current advice is that students who currently remain at university should now not travel. Universities will continue to support those students who do not have another alternative, such as international students who do not have a home in the UK, students who can't return to another address for safety reasons, and health students who have transferred to working for the NHS.
Universities will do all they can to ensure that students who remain at university have access to support, food and other provisions and that critical services – like heating, water, electricity and security - are maintained. Students can contact their university to understand the support available to them.
The UK government has issued guidance for residential educational settings. It notes that 'it is important that institutions operate a ‘non-eviction’ policy, so that no student is required to leave halls if their contract is up, if their rental agreement does not cover holiday periods or if they are unable to pay their rent. This applies whether students are self-isolating or not, and is particularly important in the case of international students, care leavers and estranged students.'
Universities will do all they can to ensure that students who remain at university have access to support, food and other provisions and that critical services – like heating, water, electricity and security - are maintained. Students can contact their university to understand the support available to them. The Office for Students has published a
briefing note on student accommodation.
In government advice, existing Tier 4 students may continue their studies via distance learning, whether from the UK or abroad, for the entirety of the 2020-21 academic year. New international students who do not currently hold a Tier 4 visa may commence their studies via distance learning, but must gain a Tier 4 visa before travelling to the UK.
On 29 July, the government updated its advice to visa holders in the UK. Previously, those with a visa that expired between 24 January 2020 and 31 July 2020 were able to request an extension, if they were not able to return home due to travel restrictions or self-isolation related to Covid-19. From 31 July, it will no longer be possible for individuals to extend their visa automatically on this basis. The government has stated that individuals are expected to take all reasonable steps to leave the UK where possible to do so, or apply to regularise their stay in the UK. If someone holds a visa or leave that was due to expire between 24 January 2020 and 31 July 2020, they will be given an extra month's grace period within the UK to 31 August 2020, during which the same conditions of leave (such as ability to work, study or rent) will continue to apply. If they intend to leave the UK by 31 August 2020 but are unable to do so, they may request additional time to stay ('exceptional indemnity') by contacting the Home Office Coronavirus Immigration Team on CIH@homeoffice.gov.uk.
The higher education sector is clear that there is no place for racial harassment on a university campus, or anywhere else – and we encourage students and staff to report any incident of harassment and seek support from their university.
Universities have a vital role to promote a safe and inclusive environment in which students and staff of all backgrounds and ethnicities can flourish and institutions continue to work to ensure that no student or member of staff is subject to any form of racism.
Clearly there is more to be done in this area and this is a focus for UUK. Later this year we will develop guidance targeted at addressing racial harassment which includes practical recommendations to help institutions improve their practice and this will involve students to ensure we reflect their views on what is required.
Graduation dates are likely to be affected. Universities should keep students informed of any changes.
Are there any guidelines on how many hours student doctors and nurses can work in the NHS?
To get more doctors and nurses on the frontline, the Home Office has
lifted the restriction on the amount of hours student nurses and doctors can work in the NHS. On top of these changes, pre-registered overseas nurses who are currently required to sit their first skills test within three months and to pass the test within eight months, will now have this deadline extended to the end of the year as well. This will give overseas nurses more time to pass their exams, whilst they spend the immediate term working on the frontline. Trainee doctors and nurses will also not be limited by the number of hours they can work in the NHS during term time.
Tier 4 students who have work rights and are employed by an NHS trust as a doctor, nurse or paramedic will not be restricted to 20 hours work per week during term time and may work without limit on the number of hours permitted. Additionally, the existing rules regarding volunteering and undertaking voluntary work as set out in the
Tier 4 Migrant Guidance will still apply during this period. However, Tier 4 students who want to assist the NHS in being an NHS Volunteer Responder are permitted to do so providing they comply with the ‘Stay at home’ rules and only volunteer if they fulfil the relevant conditions as set out on the NHS England webpage. These students will not be considered to be working in breach of their terms of their visa and can carry out any necessary tasks required of them within this role.
Right to work checks have been temporarily adjusted due to coronavirus. This is to make it easier for employers to carry them out. As of 30 March 2020, the following temporary changes have been made:
Students should initially contact their universities as they may have additional support in place and hardship funds that students are able to access. Measures introduced by the UK government to support hardship as a result of Covid-19 can be accessed by international students. Information on these schemes
can be found here. It is unlikely that international students would be eligible to claim Universal Credit. Further information on this can be found on the
UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) funded doctoral students in their final year
will receive an extension to their research with additional grants, known as a costed extension, of up to six months so that students are able to complete their studies. If PhDs are funded through other mechanisms, students should check the latest advice available from the relevant funding body and contact their university with any concerns.
Tier 4 students who are required to register with the police as a condition of a grant of leave, or who need to notify the police of a change of circumstances, should check with their local police service whether it is possible to register with them at this time. Where it is not possible, students must register with the police or update their information once social distancing measures are lifted. Students who have already registered with the police and are making a new application in the UK, should submit their Police Registration Certificate along with any other documents in support of their application as normal. For further information please see Home Office Tier 4 guidance.
Will students still be able to come to the UK to study if they are unable to take their final year high school examinations?
Will students be able to secure their Tier 4 visa if they are outside of their home country and unable to return home?
What is the guidance for students who need an ATAS certification to begin their studies?
What should an individual do if their 30 day visa to work, study or join family has expired?
The UK has announced that from 8 June 2020, international arrivals will need to self-isolate for 14 days on entering the UK. What will the implication be for international students?
Will students be able to secure their Tier 4 visa through in-country switching before beginning a course in the autumn?
What advice can be given to students who have paid a deposit for their course, but are unable to take up their place due to Covid-19?
Are visa application centres still closed around the world?
At the moment, it is difficult to know how long current disruption will last. Many universities are developing contingency plans in the case that international students are unable to attend classes on campus this autumn. Our advice to students is to make contact with the institutions they are thinking of studying at in the UK to receive updates from them as the situation develops.
Yes, on 16 June, the Home Office
released guidance which confirmed that ‘if students are required to either continue their current studies or commence a new course by distance or blended learning due to Covid-19, they will still be eligible to switch into the Graduate route on a concessionary basis if they spent some time studying outside the UK. Students will benefit from this concession if they enter the UK before 6 April 2021 and complete the final semester of their studies in the UK.’
Where test centres are available, students are still required to take a SELT. However, if a test centre is unavailable, sponsors which are higher education providers with a track record of compliance will be able to self-assess students as having a B1 level of English, where progression on to the main course is dependent upon passing the pre-sessional course. Sponsors and students should refer to the updated government guidance for full details of these new measures.
Universities are actively working to understand how they can make admissions decisions for students who may be unable to take their final year high school examinations on schedule this summer. Students should contact their examining body to discuss the current status of the qualifications they are intending to use for entry purposes. Students can contact the admissions team at the UK university they are interested in studying with to stay up to date with admissions arrangements as the situation develops.This
UCAS page outlines information on a range of international qualifications.
Current rules relating to Tier 4 visa applications are available from the government and UKCISA. An individual already legally in the UK (e.g. on a short term study visa) who would normally have to leave to apply for a Tier 4 visa will now be able to switch to a Tier 4 visa within the UK in certain circumstances. Different rules apply for those on short term study or visitor visas, and those with existing Tier 4 visas. Please refer to the latest government guidance and the UKCISA help pages for more advice.
UKVI are now accepting ATAS applications. Processing times will increase between the months of April and September and can take 30 or more working days to complete.
Students whose 30 day passport vignette to travel to the UK has expired, or is about to expire, can request a replacement vignette with revised validity dates free of charge until the end of this year, provided they are still within the period of leave that was issued for their course. To make a request, students must contact the Coronavirus Immigration Help Centre. Students will be contacted when VACs reopen to arrange for a replacement visa to be endorsed in their passport. This process will be in place until the end of 2020.
The government has introduced new border measures that include requiring any person entering England from countries that are not in a 'travel corridor' with England to self-isolate for 14 days. Separate rules apply for the devolved nations, for example, Scotland has different travel corridors. It is important to note that the measures are due to be reviewed every three weeks.
Universities UK is fully committed to supporting students in this respect and we have already been closely working with the government to help understand the practical and logistical challenges the sector will have to address to implement this measure if necessary.
Universities will always follow the relevant government and public health advice and contingency planning is well-underway to ensure we can implement the new measures effectively, while ensuring the UK remains a safe and welcoming destination for all international students. UUK has convened a task group to set out advice to universities and identify the areas where additional support and guidance from government will be required to achieve this. UUKi, in collaboration with BUILA and UKCISA, have published guidance and a checklist for institutions on supporting students required to self-isolate on entry to the UK.
Will students or staff be required to complete the participant survey under Force Majeure?
Is there any guidance available for Erasmus+ students?
The FCO COVID-19 Exceptional Travel Advisory notice was updated on 23 March, and the UK government is now strongly advising all British travellers abroad who are usually based in the UK and are currently travelling abroad to come home while commercial flights are still available.
Before travelling, all students and staff should read the latest health advice and follow guidance for travellers to reduce their risk of exposure to coronavirus (COVID-19).
The Department for Education updated its 'Coronavirus: travel in educational settings' guidance on 25 March. Please see sections 2.2 for UK students and staff already studying or working overseas and section 3 for participants already on Erasmus+. They advise that:
'All UK students and staff currently studying on exchanges (for example, Erasmus+, or terms abroad) or working temporarily overseas are advised to return to the UK now, while commercial routes are still available.'
British nationals who do not have immediate departure options available to them should refer to
The FCO travel guidance: coronavirus has been updated as of March 30 with the latest announcement on a new partnership with the airline industry and special charter flights where commercial routes do not exist. The announcement includes that 'the government has pledged up to £75 million to pay airlines for the additional charter flights' and that 'special charter flights for countries with no commercial routes will be prioritised according to the number of stranded British travellers and their vulnerability, including an assessment of the local health provision.'
The guidance includes: 'Students and staff can check if they are eligible and find out how to book in the 'Return to the UK' section of the travel advice page of the country they are in.
FCO travel advice for travellers who cannot return to the UK is to:
Follow the advice of local authorities, including local measures to help minimise risk of exposure to coronavirus (COVID-19)
Find accommodation that is suitable for their needs
Keep up to date with FCO travel advice and the latest information from transport providers and local authorities on departure options
Keep in regular contact with family and friends at home
All travellers must follow the advice of local authorities.
It is possible that students whose learning and assessments have been disrupted as a result of leaving their mobility country early may continue with online learning and assessment via the host institution or undertake some alternative study, assessment or recognition via the home institution. These arrangements will depend on the institutions and on the individual circumstances of the students.
In April 2020, UUKi
conducted a survey of institutions on their plans and contingencies for student mobility in the 2020-21 academic year.
The QAA has been issuing a series of guidance documents for institutions on maintaining quality and academic standards. Their high level guidance covers immediate concerns around teaching, assessment, credit and progressions, admissions, and external examiners. Additionally they have also published detailed thematic guidance on work based learning (including placements, partnerships, apprenticeships and study abroad).
The Office for the Independent Adjudicator (OIA) has
published a briefing note for providers on complaints arising from Covid-19 disruption. For students who intended to study abroad but have their plans disrupted, the OIA advice is:
'It’s important for providers to give advice and information as it emerges to students who were planning to travel abroad and whose plans are being disrupted. Travel might be delayed or, depending on the nature of the study opportunity, even cancelled altogether. In those cases providers should consider how the student’s learning opportunities have been affected and what other arrangements it might make to minimise the disadvantage to the student.'
The latest advice from the National Agency states that:
Universities who have questions that are not answered by this guidance are advised to contact the UK National Agency.
Project deadlines may be postponed by 12 months per project but the overall length of the project cannot exceed 36 months. Further details will be made available to beneficiaries as to how to go about this.
Universities who have questions that are not answered by this guidance are advised to contact the UK National Agency.