UK universities are looking into using charter flights to bring international students affected by the pandemic into the country.
Times Higher Education (THE) reported that discussions are believed to be ongoing between the UK government sector and companies that may be able to arrange flights from countries such as China and India so students can avoid potential complications caused by a disruption in scheduled travel services due to COVID-19.
Jamie Arrowsmith, Universities UK International (UUKi) assistant director of policy, was quoted saying that it was supporting institutions by exploring the logistics and costs around chartering flights.
UUKi is the international arm of Universities UK and represents UK universities.
Arrowsmith said the “preferred outcome” would still be for airlines “to realise that there is an opportunity and there will be demand”.
He added that if international students can return to the UK in the autumn, they want to ensure they address “any remaining barriers to students studying in the UK, including the availability of air travel”.
Would be great if we could set up an emergency scheme to enable any willing students meeting suitable admissions requirements to transfer to UK institutions… https://t.co/KnjbQTdGtK
— Jo Johnson (@JoJohnsonUK) July 7, 2020
There are many challenges around arranging charter flights, including securing agreement from authorities at each end, transferring students to campuses, and supporting them through any quarantine period.
Arrowsmith said they’re encouraging institutions to work together in their local areas and regions to see if it’s possible to do this collectively.
Among the areas with universities thought to be looking at the possibility of charter flights are south-west England and South Wales, and north-west England and the Midlands.
The UK is not alone in mulling the use of charter flights.
In Australia, one pilot programme will see about 350 international students at Australian National University (ANU) and the University of Canberra (UC) boarding a charter flight into Canberra and undergo 14-day quarantine before returning to campus.
South Australia has also announced its own plan to bring in 800 international students.
Previously, universities in New Zealand were looking into using chartered flights to bring international students into the country, but this remains to be seen as the country’s Finance Minister Grant Robertson recently said international students are unlikely to return to New Zealand this year.
These UK universities are using charter flights for students
Some UK universities are already making plans to fly international students in.
According to its website, Queen’s University Belfast is planning charter flights to bring new and returning students from China to campus in the autumn, showing its commitment to supporting students from the country.
Tickets for the Queen’s Charter Flightwill be 616 pounds one-way, and are open to students who currently hold an offer for Queen’s and INTO Queen’s, and who meet the conditions associated with their offer.
Places will also be open to current students returning to Belfast to start their next academic year, it said.
The University of Bolton has also announced plans to fly students from India, China and Africa to the UK before the new semester starts in September.
Once they have landed here, the university will organise airport pick-up, onward travel by dedicated coaches and quarantine support, said its website.