Home > Policy and analysis > Coronavirus (COVID-19) - information for universities

Coronavirus (COVID-19) - information for universities

Last updated 17 February 2020

This is an evolving situation and Universities UK, Universities UK International, Universities Scotland and Universities Wales continue to work with the UK government and local public health authorities to distribute appropriate guidance to UK universities.  

Based on the scientific advice of SAGE the UK Chief Medical Officers are advising anyone who has travelled to the UK from mainland China, Thailand, Japan, Republic of Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia or Macau in the last 14 days and is experiencing cough or fever or shortness of breath, to stay indoors and call NHS 111, even if symptoms are mild. This advice was updated 9 February. 

Universities UK urges all UK universities to contact their staff and students to ensure they are aware of this updated advice. 

NEW: immigration guidance if you're unable to return to China from the UK, or are absent from work or studies due to Coronavirus

On 17 February, the UK government released guidance on immigration provisions made by the Home Office for individuals in the UK who are unable to return to China.

The guidance can be found here.

The guidance covers: 

  • Chinese nationals in the UK whose visa has recently expired or is about to expire
  • Non-Chinese, non-EEA nationals in the UK normally resident in China
  • Chinese nationals in the UK whose leave was granted by Irish authorities (British Irish Visa Scheme (BIVS)
  • Chinese nationals in the UK whose leave was granted by the Crown Dependencies
  • Switching to a Tier 2 category in the UK
  • British nationals whose passport is at a Visa Application Centre (VAC) in China
  • Chinese or third country nationals whose passport is at a Visa Application Centre (VAC)
  • Licensed Tier 2, Tier 4 or Tier 5 sponsors: absences due to coronavirus

Coronavirus Immigration Helpline
The helpline will be open from 9am on 18 February 2020
Telephone: 0800 678 1767 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm)
Email: CIH@homeoffice.gov.uk

Assets for universities 

Please see below resources provided by public health authorities for universities. These include assets for print and screen for use around universities and on social media. 

Public Health England has provided a set of updated posters and leaflets with standard print pdf and digital screen versions (landscape and portrait)  in Thai (Thailand), Japanese (Japan), Korean (Republic of Korea), Malay (Malaysia, Singapore), Taiwanese (Taiwan, China - a variant of Mandarin). These are in addition to resources in Simplified Chinese (the written language used in the People’s Republic of China and Taiwan, where Mandarin is spoken) and Traditional Chinese (the written language used in Hong Kong and Macau, where Cantonese is spoken) and in English. Download the resources as a zip file via the links below: 

You can also help to support the campaign across your entire university community, promoting basic hygiene practices, such as regularly washing hands and always sneezing into a tissue, to stem the spread of viruses.

You can do this by:

Where to find information and advice

The UK government is closely monitoring the spread of the Coronavirus and is taking action at home and abroad. 

The latest information on the level of risk, health advice and FCO travel advice is all available at gov.uk/coronavirus

The NHS has produced guidance on self-isolation:  

Media and public statements

Below is a joint statement from Universities UK International, Universities UK and the UK Council for International Student Affairs on the impact of the coronavirus outbreak on Chinese staff and students at UK universities. 

The health, welfare and safety of students and staff is the top priority for university leaders following the Coronavirus outbreak. UK universities have been supporting all students and staff who might be concerned about their health with up-to-date advice from health services. Our universities have a strong history of welcoming Chinese students and staff to the UK and they are very much part of our international community. UK universities will not tolerate racism in any form, and we encourage students and staff to report any incident of racial harassment and seek support from their university.

We understand that students and staff may be worried about friends and family members in China and our thoughts go to all those affected by this situation. At this difficult time, we ask that students and staff support their fellow friends and colleagues in solidarity with the whole of the international higher education community.

For more general support, students should contact their institution’s wellbeing support services, or phone UKCISA’s Student Advice Line on +442077889214 (1–4pm UK time, Monday–Friday).




New poll shows overwhelming support for an immigration system based on skills

10 December 2019
​A new poll has revealed that 80% of British adults agree that the UK's immigration system should allow scientists, academics and their support staff to work in this country at any stage of their career.

New guidance for businesses on employing international students

7 November 2019
UUK has published new guidance to help ensure employers at businesses across the country have the information they need to employ international graduates.