On Saturday, the Government announced a new Tier 4 level of Covid-19 restrictions. Here we answer some of your questions about how the announcement will affect university students.
How does this news affect our return to university?
Your university will tell you when to go back. Until then, we strongly encourage you to remain where you are and access your course online wherever possible. If you do need to return, let your university know so that they can support you.
We have already published guidance to universities and students on returning to higher education in the spring term. This guidance sets out how we will support universities to enable students to return as safely as possible following the winter break, by staggering this process and facilitating testing for all.
These plans are being kept under review in light of the latest scientific evidence.
You can still meet in groups of more than your household as part of your formal education or training – such as in seminars or study groups. Students should follow the guidance and restrictions and should socially distance from anyone you do not live with wherever possible.
Can I still travel home if I have not done so already?
We expect that the majority of students, other than those who need or choose to remain at university, will now have returned to their family home during the ‘student travel window’, though they are permitted to temporarily move to a “vacation household” during the period from 3 December to 7th February.
To be clear, under the regulations, ANY student currently on a higher education course can travel home once, during the period 3 December and 7 February.
Once home, students are also allowed to return to university, but should only do so in certain circumstances such as if the in-person part of their course has started, if they have nowhere else to live or if they need to return for mental health reasons.
These students should let their universities know their plans as soon as they can, so that they can support them with this.
If you live at university you must not move back and forward between your permanent home and university home, more than once during the break.
What if I am in Tier 4?
The same travel exemption applies to students in all tiers, including tier 4, which allows students to travel and join one other household. This means that if you want to leave tier 4 to go to your permanent home or another household you can but you should stay there until you are told you can return to university.
Students in tier 4 should still adhere to all other local restrictions.
Will it be safe to study on campus?
Universities should follow guidance on reopening buildings to ensure they have safety measures in place to minimise the spread of the virus and are as Covid-secure as possible.
The Government expects all students to get tested on their return to university, wherever possible, so that we can mitigate the transmission of COVID-19 and everyone’s university experience can improve.
Getting tested is free and you will usually get the results in under an hour. Students should get tested twice, three days apart, even if your first test is negative. If positive, you should self-isolate immediately and get a confirmatory PCR test via NHS Test and Trace.
Those returning to face-to-face education after a negative test must still exercise caution and follow national guidance on social distancing, wearing face coverings and hand hygiene.
To minimise the risk to themselves and others on their return to university, students should also use local community testing programmes where possible and take a test before travelling if they have spent the winter break in a Tier 3 or 4 area.
I am a medical student who has to return for work over the Christmas period, how many times can I travel?
Under the regulations, any student can move from their student household to travel home once during the period 3 December to 7 February and can travel back to university. A student could commute from their family home or ‘vacation household’ directly to work where this is necessary, but they must not move between their student household and family home more than once.
What about international students who have gone home for Christmas? How will they be affected?
Our borders are open for both returning and new international students wishing to study in the UK. English universities have been asked to stagger returns to campus in January and February, to help ensure students are able to resume studies as safely as possible.
Universities will tell students when to return over the course of January and February. Until then, students should stay where they are and access course content online; this includes international students.
If students have already booked travel outside of their universities preferred dates, and are unable to change the booking, they should tell their university who should be able to support their return.
Students returning to the UK from overseas will be required to complete a passenger locator form on arrival, and those from a country not on the exemption list will need to self-isolate in their accommodation for ten days. Universities UK have developed guidance for universities on how best to support those students.
It is also important that international students consider the travel advice in place from their home country, including whether or not the country has closed their borders to departures to and arrivals from the UK. More information is available in our guidance and on the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office’s travel advice page.
Our borders are open for new international students wishing to study in the UK. The advice outlined in our guidance for returning international students also applies to those starting new courses.
Students should make their university aware of their travel plans in advance of their arrival date, so that they can be appropriately supported when arriving. Universities have been asked to build in appropriate flexibility for international students travelling to the UK from overseas.
Travelling to attend education in all areas of England, including tier 4 (with the most stringent controls) is allowed but please speak to your provider first.
Some countries have temporarily closed their borders to departures to and arrivals from the UK, and students should consider this and what it may mean for their travel to and from the UK. You can find more information on the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office’s travel advice page.