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 email@example.com
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.
Tier 4 students are not normally permitted to undertake distance learning courses. However, due to the current exceptional circumstances, the government has stated that they
will not consider it a breach of sponsor duties to offer distance learning to existing Tier 4 students in the UK or to students who have chosen to return overseas but wish to continue their current studies. Sponsors do not need to withdraw sponsorship in these circumstances. This measure will be in place until 31 July 2020, at which point it will be reviewed.
On 26 May, the UK government released further guidance for visa holders in the UK. They have stated that visas shall be extended to 31 July 2020 if an individual cannot leave because of travel restrictions or self-isolations. The government is now requesting that individuals contact the Coronavirus Immigration Team to detail their situation.
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 coronavrius. Government guidance issued on 30 March advises that right to work checks can now take place over video call. Retrospective in-person checks will be necessary once restrictions are lifted; the government will communicate when this is the case. Please refer to the
guidance here for the steps employers should take.
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 furloughed workers, the self-employed and those claiming statutory sick pay can be used 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.
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.’
Tier 4 guidance was released by the Home Office on 20 April, outlining that in certain circumstances, higher education providers can now self-assess a student's level of English. Where students are required to take a SELT overseas but 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. Government advice issued on 24 March states that 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, providing their leave expires before 31 July. An update on 26 June states that for those with leave expiring after 31 July and in 'urgent' circumstances, they may extend from within the UK. Please refer to the UKCISA help pages for more advice.
According to government advice, if an individual’s 30 day visa to travel to the UK for work, study or to join family has expired, or is about to expire, they can request a replacement visa with revised validity dates free of charge until the end of this year. To make a request, individuals should
contact the Coronavirus Immigration Help Centre using
this guidance. Contact will be made when VACs reopen to arrange for a replacement visa to be endorsed in the individual’s passport. There will be no penalties for being unable collect a BRP while coronavirus measures are in place. This process will be in place until the end of 2020.
Following the announcement that the government is preparing new border measures that include requiring any person entering the UK to self-isolate for 14 days, it is clear this policy will have implications for any international students arriving in the UK in the autumn, should the measures still be in place. 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.
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.