Covid-19 and UK universities: international updates and FAQs
Last updated on Thursday 2 Sep 2021 on 3:59pm
The information on this page covers queries raised by our members and partners.
This page is broken down into three categories: international students and staff, student mobility, and transnational education. 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.
If you have any questions or concerns related to international activity which are not covered on this page, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Guidance can change quickly. Always refer to government guidance for the most up to date information.
International students and staff
What is the current Covid situation across the UK for higher education?
The Prime Minister has confirmed that from 19 July, England will move to Step 4 of the roadmap. Updated guidance for higher education providers in England from Step 4 has been published. Information relating to international students specifically can be found in the 'New and returning students travelling from overseas' section.
The guidance confirms that: 'There are no longer restrictions on the approach to teaching and learning in higher education (HE) providers as a result of COVID-19. There is no requirement for social distancing or other measures within in person teaching. Providers are therefore able to shape their courses without restrictions to face-to-face provision.'
It also acknowledges that not all students may be able to get to the UK right away: ‘International students are permitted to study remotely without a visa, and in most circumstances will be able to begin their course via distance learning. Visa concessions for those on Student (or Tier 4) visas allow for the provision of online learning for students outside the UK until the 6 April 2022. These visa concessions have been implemented so that students have a greater degree of flexibility on when they travel into the UK.
‘Students that are travelling to the UK from overseas will need to pay regard to and comply with border measures that have been introduced to help prevent transmission of COVID-19 on their return.’
As of 9 August, Scotland has moved beyond Level 0 of its roadmap.
Guidance for universities is here.
Regarding international students, it notes 'All students will be subject to the same travel guidance, and any regulations that are in force, for the whole population of Scotland at the time of their arrival, including requirements for pre-departure and post-arrival testing and quarantining, where appropriate.'
It adds: 'Universities will determine and provide adequate and tailored support to international students, alongside communications about the mitigations that are in place and approaches to risk assessment and personal responsibility.'
As of 7 August, Wales is completing the move to alert level 0 of its plan. Higher education guidance can be found here.
Regarding international students, the guidance notes:
'Our international students are a welcome part of our communities in Wales. International students, from certain countries outside the UK will need to comply with the self-isolating requirements in place when they arrive in the UK.
We strongly recommend that students travelling from outside the UK should contact their university before they intend to travel to the UK to find out about the support available from their university during the required period of self-isolation on arrival.'
What are the current Covid requirements on entering the UK?
Entry requirements differ across the UK and are subject to change. Please check the government guidance regularly if you are planning to travel to the UK.
There is currently a traffic light system in place for entering England. Read more here.
The Department for Education’s updated guidance from Step 4 outlines a comprehensive list of considerations students should be aware of before arriving in the UK. We strongly recommend all students are aware of all of these requirements to avoid any disruption to their plans.
Guidance is here.
Guidance for international students travelling to Wales is here.
Guidance is here.
Do international students need to be vaccinated before entering the UK?
No, vaccination is not currently a requirement for entry into the UK. However, we encourage all international students to receive a vaccine, either in a different country before arriving for term, or in the UK once they arrive. This is confirmed in a blog by Department for Education.
Will international students and staff be able to access the vaccine?
It has been confirmed that anybody aged 18 or over in the UK is eligible for the COVID-19 vaccination for free, regardless of their nationality or immigration status. This appears in the NHS England Covid-19 vaccination FAQs: students in Higher Education Institutions.
The NHS England FAQ also confirms:
- International students should be encouraged to register with a GP and get an NHS number.
- If a person has received a first dose of COVID-19 vaccine overseas that is also available in the UK, they should receive the same vaccine for their second dose. If the vaccine they received for their first dose is not available in the UK, the most similar alternative should be offered. The student should contact a GP to ensure they receive an appropriate vaccine for their second dose.
- International students or anyone seeing requests for payment should report this activity to their university institution and to Action Fraud.
Please note, this FAQ applies to England only.
The Wales higher education guidance confirms that 'Eligibility for the vaccine applies equally to international students and staff.'
Scottish government have confirmed that international students are included in the national vaccination programme.
What is a quarantine hotel?
'Quarantine hotel' is the term being used to describe managed quarantine which applies to some travellers to the UK. You can find out more here. If you're an international student and aren't sure if you need to book hotel quarantine, you must check government guidance before you travel. You can also contact your university for support with the arrivals process.
If you are required to self-isolate in a quarantine hotel, before you travel you must:
- take a COVID-19 test and get a negative result during the 3 days before you travel. You must take the test in the 3 days before the service on which you will arrive in England departs. For example, if you travel directly to England on Friday, you must take the test on the Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday.
- book a managed quarantine hotel within a 14-day period before arrival. The booking will include your hotel, quarantine transport and travel tests for COVID-19 tests on day 2 and day 8 of quarantine
- complete a passenger locator form (PLF) with details of where you will quarantine when you arrive. You must provide a quarantine package invoice number to complete your passenger locator form.
Do students need to pay for the cost of the quarantine hotel?
We understand that some international students may have concerns about the cost of quarantine hotel. Any international student planning to travel to the UK who is required to enter a quarantine hotel and has concerns about the cost of this can speak to their university in the first instance to check whether there is any support available.
DfE guidance states that ‘UK residents (which includes international HE students due to their visa status) that are facing significant financial hardship as a result of this charge will have an opportunity to apply for a deferred repayment plan when booking. Travellers who access hardship will be referred to our debt collection agency (“Qualco”), who will perform an independent financial assessment and determine an appropriate payment plan.’
Can students with a student visa travel from red list countries to the UK?
Those with residence rights in the UK are still permitted to enter the UK from a 'red list' country. We understand that this includes: holders of Indefinite Leave to Remain; holders of existing leave to enter or remain (i.e those with biometric Residence permits) or an entry clearance/visa that grants such leave e.g. students, workers, etc (excluding visit visas); holders of EU Settlement Scheme ("EUSS") leave; those who have rights of entry under the Withdrawal Agreements (including returning residents with a right of residence under the EEA Regulations and EEA frontier workers); family members of EEA nationals with rights under the Withdrawal Agreement.
What do students travelling from amber list countries need to know about travelling to the UK?
Unless you have been fully vaccinated under the UK, US or EU vaccination programme, you will likely need to self-isolate for up to 10 days if coming from an amber list country. You can self-isolate in your accommodation (such as university halls), rather than in a quarantine hotel, but you will need to declare where you are self-isolating on your passenger locator form. There are also requirements around testing, before and after arrival, which you need to be aware of. Check the latest government guidance for England, Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland, and check with your university before travelling.
Some students plan to co-finance their studies with a part time job. Can they still expect to do this given the impact the pandemic on employment?
We would always recommend that students carefully plan their financing, but this is especially important given the current precarious situation. For more information on working during studies, students should refer to the UKCISA website.
Students travelling abroad during Covid-19
When planning and preparing students for studying or working abroad over the next academic year, institutions should closely follow the FCDO travel advice for the destination country, and check the Covid-19 traffic light lists (red, amber and green) and relevant guidance.
Institutions should also look at the FCDO general guidance for people travelling abroad from the UK during the Covid-19 pandemic. Advice is changing frequently on travel, so these pages and travel lists should be consulted regularly.
Institutions should check the rules for the destination students are visiting or travelling through. In particular, check whether:
• the UK government advises against all but essential travel
• the country or territory students are travelling to, or may be travelling through, will allow people from the UK to enter
• travellers need to show proof of vaccination, need a negative Covid-19 test to enter, or need to quarantine when they arrive
Institutions and students also need to be aware of vaccination requirements of individual overseas institutions, which can be checked directly with the institution.
If students are expecting to, or are required to travel back to the UK during their time abroad, institutions should also bear in mind rules for entry back into the UK from destinations they are visiting, and Covid-19 testing and quarantining requirements.
To help students consider their own safety when living and travelling abroad, students should also be directed to consulting the general rules for keeping safe when travelling: Coronavirus (COVID-19): safer travel guidance for passengers. These include how to plan travel and checklists for travel.
Institutions need to adhere to travel advice from the FCDO when considering whether they are able to send students to a particular destination. Information and guidance on Covid-19 can be found on the Turing Scheme web pages.
For queries regarding the impact of Covid-19 on European funded programmes, please see advice from the European Commission.
For information on how to use Erasmus funds for study, training or work abroad which has been disrupted due to Covid, institutions should consult the National Agency Mobility Tool+ guidance during Covid-19, which helps institutions process Key Action 103 and 107 Force Majeure cases.
The guidance can be accessed here: https://www.erasmusplus.org.uk/file/31126/download
It can also be found on this page, under the section “Guides”.