Some 11 countries are now on the UK’s ‘red list’ of countries including South Africa, Botswana, Nigeria, Zambia and Zimbabwe, after the government announced travellers from Nigeria would be required to isolate in government facilities from 4am on December 6.
Other countries on the list are also all in Africa: Angola; Eswatini; Lesotho; Malawi; Mozambique; and Namibia.
Following the reintroduction of the travel red list, students arriving from the countries will be required to isolate in a government-managed quarantine hotel for 10 days at a cost of £2,285.
“This is a massive disruption for UK universities as it was looking as though the January intake from Nigeria was going to be well up (in terms of numbers) with the reintroduction of the UK Graduate route,” Stuart Rennie from SJRENNIE Consulting said.
“There is a real concern over whether enough quarantine accommodation exists in the UK”
“Both priority and super priority visas have been temporarily suspended, as there is a real concern over whether enough quarantine accommodation exists in the UK.”
Swansea University noted the “challenging time” may cause worry for many about covering the costs of quarantine accommodation.
“Therefore, for new students arriving from a red list country for programs starting in January 2022, Swansea University will reimburse the cost of the legally required 10-day hotel quarantine stay, so long as you meet the eligibility criteria,” the institution said.
Other institutions offering similar support to students arriving for the first time from red list countries include the University of Nottingham, the University of Bath, Loughborough University, and the University of Manchester. The University of Gloucestershire has said it will reimburse up to £1,210.
The University of Exeter has said that fee-paying students arriving for full duration degree programs at any level and starting or returning to study with the university in January 2022 will be eligible for a package covering the full cost of the hotel quarantine.
Nigerian students looking to study in the UK from January will face a “huge financial burden” if they will be required to pay for quarantine accommodation out of their own pocket, Rennie emphasised.
“It is clear that some universities will cover quarantine costs but not all are going to do this. There is also the challenge of whether the students will receive their visas in time and whether the UK universities will allow a period of online learning again,” he told The PIE.
“This is not popular in Nigeria and certainly not with any scholarship bodies that are funding students directly.”
Rennie also warned that any universities that do not offer a reimbursement package “as a minimum will lose the students completely”. Large numbers of deferrals are also likely, he added.
“Universities should be campaigning for the Nigerian students to be able to quarantine on campus, where they can support them better mentally and put in place measures and advice to support their welfare,” he urged.
The cost will be paid via a deduction on tuition fees after students arrive on campus, it added.
Many institutions have been sharing news of their decision to cover quarantine costs on social media.
University of Gloucestershire states, “If you are arriving from a red list country, the University will either reimburse or credit your student account with £1,210 towards costs incurred for your stay in the Managed Quarantine Facility (MQF), PCR testing on arrival in UK and travel to Gloucestershire.”
Government measures stipulate that only British or Irish Nationals or those with residency rights in the UK are permitted to arrive in the UK from red list countries. However, the updated information on the government website does not explicitly say that international students are eligible to arrive.
UKCISA has advised students who have been in a red list country in the 10 days leading up to arrival in the UK to carry an up-to-date copy of Department for Education guidance that clarifies that student visas are categorised as residence rights.
“This means that if you are questioned at any point on your journey, you can point to published guidance giving examples of who has residency rights in the UK,” the UKCISA advice for students reads.
The organisation said that it is not clear how many students have been affected by the changes in measures. HESA data from 2019/20 suggested that UK higher education institutions hosted 13,020 students from Nigeria, 1,930 from South Africa and 1,230 from Zimbabwe.
Providers have also been “working flat out” to support students at a junior levels.
“Continuity of education throughout the pandemic has been the driving force for independent schools who have pulled out all the stops to reassure parents on the red list with their comprehensive and caring travel and quarantine plans,” said Mark Brooks, who has been supporting families from Nigeria to gain places at UK boarding schools for 13 years with Mark Brooks Education.
“Despite these difficult but temporary logistical challenges, Nigerian parents are resilient and have a positive and creative mindset.”
The government has permitted boarding schools across the country to quarantine pupils arriving from red list countries in school facilities during the pandemic, and the same goes for students under the age of 18 attending higher education or further education institutions.
More than 1,400 students from Nigeria are currently enrolled at ISC member boarding schools, however many of them reside in the UK, Brookes continued.
The vast majority of boarding schools have made arrangements for students who are arriving from red list countries to quarantine at school at the start of next term, in addition to making plans for the Christmas break, Brookes explained.
“It has been a worry for parents and I have had mothers in tears on the phone”
“We have been supporting [families] and their schools to either get their children home, stay with friends, guardians or Christmas camps until school resumes in January,” he added.
“It has been a worry for parents and I have had mothers in tears on the phone, but there is always a solution and our team has been working flat out this week to provide them.”
Nigeria – one of the five priority countries featured in the UK’s international education strategy – is such an important market to the UK, Rennie concluded.
“This will have real implications for universities that do not step up to offer maximum support to the incoming students from Nigeria,” he said.