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International students should delay travel to the UK

travel to the UK
UK university students are stuck in limbo after the surprise lockdown announcement this week. Source: Niklas Halle'n/AFP

If you made plans to travel to the UK in time for the spring term, it’s officially time to reconsider. The Department for Education (DfE) has advised international students to delay coming back in January in view of the ongoing lockdown in England. University students who have returned to online learning should stay in their home countries until the lockdown is over unless they have face-to-face sessions scheduled.

This means you should postpone your plan to travel to the UK unless you are undertaking training for allied health, education, and social work courses, or have mandatory assessment and activity in January. At the same time, DfE also advises higher education providers to be flexible with international students travelling into the UK, “especially if students have already booked travel before this guidance was issued and they are unable to rearrange via their travel operator or the cost of rearranging would be prohibitively high.”

UK universities were hoping to welcome international students back in January; the government had even released a set of guidelines to facilitate a safe return from Christmas break. Unfortunately, in that time the virus continued to spread, even mutating into a strain that is more easily transmitted. This prompted the government to order the closure of schools and universities until mid-February, which has forced universities to go online for the spring semester. 

As the lockdown announcement came when many students were already back in the UK, it forced students to quickly come up with an alternative game plan for the upcoming term. Besides the mental strain this causes to students abroad on their own, other issues have surfaced too. Students are dissatisfied that they are paying full tuition fees for a term of remote learning, while others are demanding rent rebates as they have paid for accommodation and facilities they can no longer access.