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UK higher ed responds to India red list and student exemption

Stakeholders have weighed in on India being added the UK’s red list for travel, and are cautiously hopeful that the quarantine requirements and restrictions will not take too great a toll on recruitment and the arrival of students, particularly for the September 2021 intake.

IndiaStudents coming from India will now have to pay to quarantine in a government hotel. Photo: Unsplash

"The safety and health of our staff and students are our top priority"

Students are exempt from travel restrictions that the UK has introduced on travel from India following the emergence of a new variant of the Covid-19 virus.

This is due to increased availability of vaccines for younger people and more experience on the part of institutions in handling Covid-related issues.

“We need to keep in mind this development is in response to the pandemic situation and I believe will be closely monitored by authorities. This is not akin to any embargo or sanctions and I am confident this will be reviewed once the surge of infections in India start decreasing,” said Dipankar Chakraborty, who spoke to The PIE in a personal capacity. Chakraborty is India Institute country director, Birmingham Global, University of Birmingham.

“We know the most effective tool to combat the disease is vaccines. The Indian government’s move to open up vaccinations to the 18 and above age group from May 1 is a very positive step. The university is very well prepared to support students given the various uncertainties – from delayed qualifications or cancelled exams, through to how students arrive on campus.”

Chakraborty said that the institution would continue to monitor guidelines and are planning for “every eventuality given the uncertainties”.

“We are planning for every eventuality given the uncertainties, and incorporating maximum flexibility wherever possible. For example, we are extending our welcome period for new students – so that whenever students are able to get to us, they can be sure of a warm Birmingham welcome,” he added.

“We are planning for every eventuality given the uncertainties, and incorporating maximum flexibility wherever possible”

“For postgraduate programs, we will accept scanned or photographed copies of documentation (certificate and transcripts) to confirm student’s academic results, rather than students having to provide original copies to confirm their place.”

A survey from UKEAS last week suggested that Indian students remain motivated to study in the UK, although it was conducted before the announcement was made last night.

“Concerns raised by Indian students were mostly relating to potential roadblocks being put in the way that could increase the cost of reaching the UK. For instance, hotel quarantine on arrival, visa delays or restrictions, or limited flight availability,” said Pieter Funnekotter, CEO of UKEAS.

“Several university partners have mentioned that they are investigating whether students coming from red list countries could quarantine in special university residence accommodation. If university residence quarantine is possible, and issues around visas and flight availability do not come to pass, we do not see a major impact on recruitment of students from India.

“India is the world’s leading producer of vaccines and we are hopeful that its second wave will be brought under control as quickly as possible. The safety and health of our staff and students are our top priority.”

However, whether the cost of quarantine – which currently stands at £1,750 – will impact students’ decision to come to the UK remains to be seen.

“This is one question which is really difficult to know the answer to and is an area that the UK higher education sector needs to work with the UK government on to look at and understand with the view of what can be done to get the best outcome for all concerned,” said Bobby Mehta, director of UoP Global at the University of Portsmouth.

“I personally hope that by the time we reach the summer and start of the new academic year that this will not be an issue”

“I personally hope that by the time we reach the summer and start of the new academic year that this will not be an issue and I hope the red list will not be needed. But regardless I am confident that the UK will ensure it has the best offer possible for international students choosing to study in the UK based on the situation at the time.

“For international students in India, both for current and prospective students, this will be another difficult period, however the benefit we have is that we know how to deal with this situation as we went through this last year and together we dealt with it really well. So we will do the same again this year and we will react to the situation as it develops.”

IDP Connect said that there is a need for the sector and government to make plans to facilitate the safe arrival of students from India.

“Research shows that the promise of an on-campus study experience is crucial to Indian students,” Jonah Duffin, IDP Connect’s director of external relations, emphasised.

The latest IDP Connect Crossroads research of over 6,000 prospective international students, due for full release on April 29, shows that “Indian students with offers to study in the UK are overwhelmingly willing to quarantine, to be vaccinated and to be taught through a mixture of online and face-to-face teaching; in exchange for an in-country, on-campus experience”, he noted.

“We know from previous surveys that students are willing to quarantine, with 92% happy to do so.

“However, in the latest survey 44% state that they are unwilling to pay the costs of hotel quarantine and 41% only expecting to pay a portion, and 15% expecting to pay the full cost. Of those who do not believe that they should shoulder the full cost of quarantine, 70% think it is the shared responsibility of the government and institutions to pay all or some of the costs.”

Universities UK International further said that students should check about travel arrangements with their universities.

“We understand international students may have questions about countries being added to the UK’s ‘red list’, and what this means for them,” it said in a statement.

“If travelling to the UK, students should work their way through the arrivals procedure for entering the UK to ensure that they have met all requirements and know what to expect when they arrive in the UK.”

“Before making their travel plans, all students should contact their university for advice on when they can travel to the UK to resume their in-person studies,” Janaka Pushpanathan, director South India at British Council added.

“We want to reassure all international students that universities are working hard to ensure that they know what to expect before travelling to the UK, and are welcomed and supported on arrival and throughout their time at university.”

There are currently around 40 countries on the UK’s red list, most of which are located in Africa and South America.

Additional reporting by Viggo Stacey.

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