The spread of the Covid-19 virus is already having a massive impact on colleges and universities around the world.
If you are already pursuing a degree programme in the UK or you intend to enroll in the coming days, it is high time you should review current policy changes to prepare yourself.
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Studying in the UK and Covid-19
If you are a non-UK resident and wish to continue your studies in the UK, the good news is that UK universities are accepting and processing applications as usual.
Noticeably, the next enrollment session, which is scheduled for Sept/Oct, will be continued as planned.
A recent survey revealed the majority of educational institutions plan to offer face-to-face teaching opportunities in the future.
Online Learning Opportunities
According to our sources, coaching at UK universities will move to the online framework from the current session. Campuses will be open, but universities plan to follow the hybrid teaching models (one-on-one sessions and digital lectures), allowing social distancing measures.
Student Visa Extensions
All non-UK students who are not able to return to their own countries due to the crisis have already been granted an extension.
Students whose visas expired after 24th January are entitled to receive this extension, which will end on July 31st. After this date, your application will be under review, and a dedicated Covid-19 team will take the necessary action.
The Foreign Office Confirms PSW Stands if Onshore by 20/21
The Foreign Office has confirmed all non-UK students will be entitled to receive Post Study Work rights if they start or continue their course in the current session.
In addition, international students will be eligible to access the Graduate Immigration route if they have been resident in the UK since April 6. They may, however, have to complete their final semester in the country.
According to information received, “If students are required to either continue their current studies or commence a new course by distance or blended learning due to Covid-19, they will still be eligible to switch into the Graduate route on a concessionary basis if they spent some time studying outside the UK.”
The sector bodies called for clarity and also mapped the steps needed to jumpstart and accelerate the recovery of this sector. Notably, the Graduate Immigration route was introduced last September.
According to Gary Davies, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Student Recruitment and Business Development, London Metropolitan University, “This is a long-awaited and overdue announcement from the government and is desperately needed to help institutions deliver as much as possible from a pipeline that was looking so promising just a few short months ago.”
“The delay in the announcement is ensuring that students are seriously considering other options.”
“It would also have a similar impact to have UKVI update their guidance ahead of the end of next month. Our future students are making decisions now, we need confirmation now,” he added.
PSW is one of the reasons that attract hundreds of thousands of international students. The Home Office has also clarified guidelines regarding Tier-4 visas. Also, Jo Johnson, brother of the current Prime Minister, has requested the government to double the duration of the UK PSW from 2 to 4 years. According to him, this extension will help the sector reduce the impact of Brexit and Coronavirus.
Johnson also wants the country to double the number of Indian migrants the UK plans to accommodate by 2024.
In one report by King’s College, London, and the Harvard Kennedy School, Johnson clearly warned the expected 50%-75% decline in international students due to the pandemic would uncover real vulnerabilities in the UK university management system.
According to him, universities in the UK have long been confined by the elements of “bureaucracy, obsessions with poorly-crafted immigration targets and petty rules”.
And to overcome these hurdles, he suggests the government reconsider the targets defined in the International Education Strategy. The UK Government should set additional targets for the country to be one of the top study destinations for international students after the United States of America.
According to Johnson, “For many years, the top three destinations for international students have been the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia. But recently global student mobility has begun to shift.”
To preserve its space as the best study destination, it is important to give an indication that the country is open and willing to welcome and accommodate students from around the globe.
In order to achieve this, the government should “turbocharge” the effectiveness of the UK study visa offers with an extension of PSW visas from 2 to 4 years.
Apart from that, he also recommended the Home Office must rebalance its mix of non-UK students by doubling the number of Indian students.
According to him, “The UK is in a good position to upload a market share from the US in India and a further improvement in the post-study work offer would help the sector overcome new concerns about studying in the UK that has arisen in the wake of Covid-19.”
The Home Office has recently published an updated guideline to confirm all non-UK students, including Indians, will be eligible to access PSW rights at the end of their respective study courses.
According to Home Office, “Students will normally be expected to undertake their studies in the UK to be eligible for the Graduate route. However, if students are required to either continue their current studies or commence a new course by distance or blended learning due to COVID-19, they will still be eligible to switch into the Graduate route on a concessionary basis if they spent some time studying outside the UK.”
Many UK universities have already stated they will follow a mixed teaching system, which will include both online coaching sessions and in-person physical activities.
Universities in the UK have been urging the UK Government for measures to address the massive impact of the Covid-19 on the UK’s Higher Education sector.
Their efforts have also been recognized by the UK Government, and we have witnessed a colossal 136% leap in the total number of Indian student visas for 2020.
According to Vivienne Stern, Director of the UUki, “The Graduate route allows students to remain in the UK for two years after graduation to work or look for work, and this concession means Indian students starting a UK course this autumn will be eligible to apply even if they need to start their UK course online due to COVID-19. We welcome this concession, as this was one of the areas of flexibility we requested the government to consider in our ‘Kickstarting the Recovery’ paper.”
In conclusion, all UK universities are presently devising strategies that will address various possible scenarios in the 20/21 academic year. It is too soon to expect any clear guidance from the Home Office considering the country is still going through tough times. However, we suggest you contact your immigration lawyer for advice.