We have been working closely with the higher education sector to ensure that it provides the additional support needed for international students who have decided to remain in the UK or who are unable to travel at present. Universities have an obligation to ensure that students have continued accommodation and access to essential services in the UK for the duration of their stay. Universities are also offering a range of support to students, including support for catering and cleaning, and providing support for mental health.
We have worked closely with the Office for Students to enable providers to draw upon existing funding to increase hardship funds and to support disadvantaged students – both domestic and international – impacted by COVID-19. As a result, providers will be able to use the funding – worth around £23 million per month for April and May – towards student hardship funds, including for the purchase of IT equipment and mental health support as well as to support providers’ access and participation plans.
We are pleased to see that the sector is making every effort to enable students to continue their studies – including moving learning online either in the UK or in the student's home country – so that their teaching and assessment can proceed. Many providers are also bolstering their existing mental health services and adapting delivery to means other than face-to-face.
The government is also applying discretion under the current circumstances to ensure that international students are not negatively impacted if they find themselves in a position where they cannot comply with certain visa rules. The government has published bespoke Tier 4 visa guidance for students and sponsors who are affected by changes to UK immigration and borders due to COVID-19. This guidance includes the latest information for those who might have questions around visa expiry, switching visa category within the UK and distance learning.