According to new guidance from the country’s Department of Education, international students should delay coming to the UK this January.
Universities and schools hoped to welcome international students to campuses for the spring term, but the vast majority had to stop face-to-face teaching because of lockdown measures.
Unless their course requires them to be on campus from January 4 onwards or if they cannot rearrange their travel plans, the government is advising international students not to travel from overseas.
However, stakeholders have told The PIE News that several students have already come to the UK from both universities and schools and are now unable to return home because of travel restrictions.
There are concerns about these students’ mental health, far away from their families, facing the UK lockdown.
The DfE said in a statement, “Our HE providers are looking forward to welcoming both returning and new international students planning to study with UK providers this year.”
Students can study online until they resume learning in person. Our advice for international students traveling for the spring term from overseas is to consider whether at this time they need to travel to the UK.
With international students traveling to the UK overseas, the DfE said providers should try to be as flexible as possible.
This is particularly the case if students have already booked travel before issuing this guidance and are unable to rearrange via their travel operator, or the rearrangement costs would be prohibitively high,” they said.”
The Department acknowledged that “many international students” may have stayed or already returned to their term-time accommodation during the winter break but are not expected to return to in-person learning until mid-February.
These students should remain in their current accommodation at university. To reduce footfall on campus, they should be asked to use campus resources only when they have to, but they should be offered testing alongside the first expected returners,’ the DfE said.
“In terms of travel to the United Kingdom, the main problems encountered are the availability of flights and the availability of travel,” Stephanie Harris told The PIE, the leader of International Engagement (Non-EU) at Universities UK International.
“Concerning leaving the United Kingdom and traveling home, the problems are again the same in terms of the availability of flights, as well as the fact that, over the Christmas period, some countries have imposed stricter border controls on individuals traveling from the United Kingdom,” she said.
India is one such nation that has imposed stricter travel controls on individuals flying from the United Kingdom.
In the last week of December, flights between the two countries were closed amid concerns about the fresh Covid-19 strain that had appeared in the UK. Flights have now resumed but on a very restricted basis.
NISAU Chairman Sanam Arora explained that “tragic” consequences of students not getting back to their families have occurred.
“We’ve had a lot of questions already, wherein India someone’s mother or father was critically ill, and they wanted to go back, or they were already scheduled to go back and suddenly they couldn’t because of the travel ban right away,” she said.
Then they are trapped here, and the parent’s condition gradually worsens over the next few days and ultimately sadly passes away. The students here are trapped and unable to return.
According to Caroline Nixon, director of Caroline Nixon Education, international students at younger levels who have flown to the UK face problems.
That the announcement came on Monday, which was the first day back for many boarding schools, was incredibly problematic timing-wise,” she said.”
“She said, “A large number of students arrived at school on Monday, and then on Monday night, they were told they were closing schools.
However, Nixon mentioned that significant numbers of students staying at school during the Christmas holidays remained as they believed doing so would mean avoiding quarantine periods at home and on their return to the United Kingdom.
They were thinking, ‘We’re going to be nice and sacrifice our Christmas holiday, and we’re going to stay in the UK so we can go back to school.’ Of course, it was all for nothing for those students,” she added.
Educators are now taking steps to ensure that students who cannot return home are properly looked after and kept up to date with relevant data.
“The mental health of the children in their care is absolutely at the forefront of their minds for boarding house staff, and people do the absolute best to support these children,” said Nixon, of the pre-university students.
Harris of UUKi added that the organization’s main message is “to encourage students to reach out to their universities if they face any problems related to hardship and have that conversation with them so that universities can support them through it.”
To provide regular updates and support for Indians stuck in the UK, NISAU is publishing advice for Indian students.