University students in England told not to travel home

Minister says overseas students and staff will not be penalised if their visa has expired or they take distance learning courses

March 27, 2020
student room
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Students at English universities have been urged by the government to stay put and not attempt to travel, while overseas students and staff have been assured that expired visas will be extended.

Michelle Donelan, the universities minister, said that students who are still living in student halls or private rented accommodation “should remain there and stay indoors while current restrictions are in force”.

She said that this “inevitably places more pressure” on universities’ student accommodation and support services but asked institutions to keep their numbers of critical workers to “an absolute minimum”.

Students will also still receive tuition fee and maintenance payments for term three as scheduled, whether or not campuses are closed or learning has moved online, she added.

Ms Donelan issued the advice in letters to vice-chancellors and university students on 26 March.

She added that the Home Office had updated its visa guidance to provide greater certainty for international students and staff.

Tier 4 students are not normally permitted to undertake distance learning courses, but Ms Donelan said that this restriction had been waived for overseas students in the UK or those who have returned to their home country but wished to continue their studies.

“No individual who is in the UK legally, but whose visa is due to expire or has already expired, and who cannot leave because of travel restrictions related to Covid-19, will be regarded as an overstayer, or suffer any detriment in the future,” she said.

She added that anyone whose leave expired after 24 January and who cannot leave the country because of travel restrictions or self-isolation will have their visas extended to 31 May.

Meanwhile, international students and staff who wished to stay in the UK in the long term and would ordinarily need to apply for a visa from their home country would now be able to do so from the UK.

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