In this section, we provide answers to some of the questions you are asking us, or links to elsewhere in our website where we discuss these things.

Please be aware that some education providers will have their own policies which might differ from our answers. We try to explain what the Home Office (UKVI) has published on its website. The Home Office's Coronavirus Immigration Helpline appears to no longer takes queries by phone, but their email address is

You can also see information provided by other bodies, including Universities UK, the Office for Students, the Scottish, Welsh, and Northern Irish governments, and the National Union of Students, in the next layer of this page, Information and support for international students.

As a general rule, guidance issued by the governments of the four UK countries starts at the following links:

We will try to keep the information here as current as possible. Where we provide a link to the original source, please check it there before contacting us because it might have been updated since we linked to it.


What do 'lockdown', 'tiers' and 'protection levels' mean?

All countries in the UK are subject to different levels of restrictions which have changed many times since March 2020. The authorities have given these restrictions a lot of names, including 'firebreak', 'circuit breaker' and 'lockdown'. They all mean that you have to limit what you do according to the regulations and guidelines in force where you live, with the intention of reducing the spread of the infection.

The BBC has a helpful summary of what is in place in your area, wherever you live and study in the UK: Lockdown rules: What are the Covid regulations where you live? 

And always ask your university, college or school, students' union and other students if you need help or are anxious about what any of these rules mean for you. For other sources of help, see Information and support for international students.



Travelling to the UK 

Since 4 October 2021, each of the four UK countries have removed their red-amber-green 'traffic light' systems. These systems have been replaced by an alternative system which reduces the requirements for many travellers but retains the strictest requirements for those still considered to be on the ‘red list’. People coming from countries not on the red list will be divided into those who have been ‘fully vaccinated’ and those who have not.

Many people subject to the red list are banned from travelling to the UK altogether, whilst others are allowed to travel but must quarantine in specially-arranged hotel accommodation when they arrive.

There is overarching info on Entering the UK.

See Travel to England from another country during Coronavirus (COVID-19) for specific information about travel requirements during the pandemic. Onward links can be found there for the rules for arriving in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.

See Red list of countries and territories (info for arriving in England) for specific information about the strictest (‘red list’) requirements. Again, onward links can be found there for the rules for arriving in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.

What does being ‘fully vaccinated’ mean?

The webpage Travel to England from another country during coronavirus Covid-19 > Check if you qualify as fully vaccinated says the following about being ‘fully vaccinated’:

“Fully vaccinated means that you have had a complete course of an approved vaccine at least 14 days before you arrive in England. The day you had your final dose does not count as one of the 14 days.

“The vaccine must be administered under either:

  • the UK vaccination programme
  • an overseas vaccination programme with an approved proof of vaccination for travel to the UK.”

You can read further guidance on Countries with approved Covid-19 vaccination programmes and proof of vaccination.

The webpage Travel to England from another country during coronavirus Covid-19 > Check if you qualify as fully vaccinated adds:

“Even if you are not fully vaccinated, the fully vaccinated rules apply if you:

  • are under 18 and resident in the UK or one of the countries or territories with approved proof of vaccination
  • are taking part in an approved COVID-19 vaccine trial in the UK or the USA (US residents only for USA trials)
  • cannot have a COVID-19 vaccination for a medical reason which has been approved by a clinician under the new medical exemptions process, and you are resident in England.”

When is travel to the UK not allowed?

Some people are not permitted to travel to the UK at all. See Red list of countries and territories [and our information about the red list, below] for details about which people are not currently permitted to travel to the UK.

Who must take a Covid-19 test before travel to the UK?

If you are travelling to the UK from outside of the Common Travel Area and you are from a non-red list country and you are considered to be 'fully vaccinated’, then you are allowed to commence travel without having to provide any negative Covid-19 test result. All others must provide a negative Covid-19 test result before they are allowed to commence travel.

Who must quarantine (or self-isolate) when they arrive in the UK?

If you are travelling to the UK from outside of the Common Travel Area and you are from a non-red list country and you are considered to be 'fully vaccinated’, then you do not have to quarantine at home (or in the place you are staying) after arrival in the UK.

All others, including all those subject to red requirements, must quarantine after arrival in the UK. Those subject to red requirements must quarantine in a 'managed hotel'. All others, if required to quarantine, must quarantine at home or in the place they are staying. In all cases, the quarantine period is for up to 10 days but this can be reduced depending on the results of further Covid-19 tests.

Where quarantine is required, having a negative, pre-departure Covid-19 test result will not remove this requirement. There are some jobs that qualify for travel exemptions (ie exemption from the need to self-isolate) but students, as a group, are not exempt.

Who must take a Covid-19 test after arrival in the UK?

Every person must take one or more Covid-19 tests after they arrive in the UK.

  • Red list people: One test on-or-before day 2 and one test on-or-after day 8
  • All others:
    • If 'fully vaccinated', one test on-or-before day 2;
    • If not ‘fully vacinated’, one test on-or-before day 2 and one test on-or-after day 8.

Tests must be pre-booked before travelling to the UK.

England alone also operates a scheme called Test to Release. This is a voluntary scheme which involves signing up before travel to the UK to take a private test after arrival. If the test shows that you are not infected, you may end your self-isolation when you receive the results. The scheme is not open to those affected by the 'red list' restrictions.

Be aware of the impact of quarantine (self-isolation)

Periods of quarantine or self-isolation mean that if you intend to come to the UK for study, you must take into account these extra days of not being able to attend classes, or to see other people, or to leave your accommodation. Contact your education provider before you travel to the UK so you can check what support you will receive during these first days, including accommodation, food, online facilities for induction, orientation, meeting tutors and other students, and other matters. Universities, colleges, and schools, will help you during this time so it's vital that they know what you plan to do and where you will be staying.

Guidance issued for, or relevant specifically to, students and institutions

In England, Department for Education's (DfE's) Higher education coronavirus (COVID-19) operational guidance. This guidance contains helpful information for HE providers such as the latest information on face coverings, accommodation and instructions for students arriving on campus. It also contains information for new and returning students travelling from overseas, including further guidance for students who have arrived from red, amber or green countries in the past 10 days.

UniversitiesUK guidance publication, aimed at education providers: Supporting students who are required to self-isolate. This publication gives you some idea of how your institution might support you, especially during self-isolation.

Returning to the UK on existing immigration permission

You can enter the UK with your existing immigration permission, subject to travel restrictions (as explained above). This principle applies to Students, as well as to dependants and others. If you are a dependant, the student in your family must still have valid Student permission, whether they are inside or outside the UK.

Returning to the UK when your existing immigration permission had expired used to be possible under the government ‘Covid Visa Concession Scheme’. The scheme was for people who had left the UK with valid leave before 17 March 2020 and who intended to return to the UK and make an application for Indefinite or Further Permission to Stay. The concession appears to no longer be available.



Information for those travelling from a 'red list' country (Recently updated)

The UK has a 'red list' of countries and territories. The red list exists to try and prevent the spread of variants, by reducing travel to the UK and ensuring that those that do travel do so according to the guidance. The following information is for you if you are currently in a red list country or will be in a red list country in the 10 days prior to your planned travel to the UK.

There is overarching info on Entering the UK.

If you are a student planning to travel to the UK you might have some questions on whether you can still travel and what you need to think about before you do travel. You can always seek advice from your institution or call our UKCISA advice line for students, but the following might also help to answer your questions.

Where can I find the UK ‘red list’? (recently updated)

See the current red list of countries and territories. The list was most recently updated on 26 November 2021, where six countries were added effective 12:00 midday Friday 26 November. From the effective date until 4am Sunday 28 November, all commercial and private flights from these countries are banned. The list applies to arrivals in all four countries of the UK. 

There are specific guidelines you must follow if you are arriving in the UK from any of the red list countries during this period. These are outlined in the red list of countries and territories so check these before travelling.

Am I allowed to travel to the UK?

The red list of countries and territories for England states:

“If you have been in or travelled through a country or territory on the red list in the 10 days before you arrive in England, you will only be allowed to enter the UK if you either:

  • are a British or Irish National
  • have residence rights in the UK”.

That webpage doesn’t clarify what ‘residency rights’ are. However, there is further guidance on what residency rights are elsewhere. For example, this page on Foreign travel advice for those coming to the UK from Mozambique provides details for people travelling from Mozambique and lists people with residency rights to include: 

“holders of Indefinite Leave to Remain; holders of existing leave to enter or remain (i.e those with biometric Residence permits) or an entry clearance/visa that grants such leave e.g. students, workers, etc (excluding visit visas); holders of EU Settlement Scheme (“EUSS”) leave; those who have rights of entry under the Withdrawal Agreements (including returning residents with a right of residence under the EEA Regulations and EEA frontier workers); family members of EEA nationals with rights under the Withdrawal Agreement”.

The Department for Education (DfE) in England also explains what it means by residence rights in its Higher education COVID-19 operational guidance. This guidance states

“residence rights includes those with an entry clearance or visa that grants such leave, for example, students, holders of existing leave to enter or remain such as those students with biometric residence permits, and holders of EU Settlement Scheme (‘EUSS’) leave”.

We understand that this doesn't include those with 'visitor' permission (as is explicitly mentioned in the country-specific guidance) or 'short-term student' permission. 

This guidance is just written regarding arrivals to England but we advise students travelling to any country in the UK, and who have been in a red list country in the 10 days prior to travel, to carry an up-to-date copy of this guidance that details this point on residency 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.

Those travelling from a red list country (or who have been in a red list country in the 10 days prior to travel) who are not a British or Irish national, or someone with residency rights, will not be permitted to enter England. However, guidance for Scotland and Northern Ireland does not appear to impose such a ban. If you are arriving in England, Scotland or Northern Ireland and travelling onto Wales then you must follow the relevant guidance above for your entry point into the UK.

Can I apply for a visa?

Applications for visas for study or work in the UK continue to be processed from all locations. Seek assurances from your local UK visa post if you are yet to apply for immigration permission and your application is for a different purpose. We are checking if the suspension on Priority and Super Priority visa services for all visa routes has yet been lifted.

Check Advice for UK visa applicants and temporary UK residents for further information.

Do I need to quarantine when I arrive?

In almost all cases you must quarantine. Your obligations may differ depending on which part of the UK you first arrive in:

Advice for UK visa applicants and temporary UK residents has information about quarantining measures for students under 18 who are coming to the UK to attend a boarding school. This includes information for parents who may wish to accompany them. There is also wider information, applying to all students under 18, in Unaccompanied higher and further education students under 18 arriving from a red list country.

Can I make, and book, my own choice of hotel?

No. You must book a ‘managed quarantine’ package before you travel, and you must do this via the portals provided under the specific information for the country you will be arriving in.



Communicating with your education provider

It is very important that you let your education provider know where you are. If you need help with your mental health, with feeling lonely, with your finances. or with your study, make sure you tell your institution so that it can offer you the support you need. Don't worry that other students might also need help; everyone is important, and we know that international students lack sources of financial and emotional support that might be available to other students.

If you cannot contact your education provider by telephone, make use of email, web forms and all other forms of communication on offer. 

Universities, colleges and schools are facing a lot of complications at the moment, and their decisions can affect certain students more than others. Your institution might be able to make special arrangements for you if you explain to them in detail how their decisions will affect you. Even if they are not able to make the changes you want, it is important that you let them know about any practical disadvantages you will have and ask for explanations and, if necessary, alternative sources of help. We cannot ask education providers to make changes for individuals, but they might not have realised the impact their plans will have for you. They may be able to help in some way, including by speaking to the Home Office on your behalf.

This situation is very hard for you. It is also difficult for education providers who are concerned about supporting all their students, and their ability to recruit international students in the future, so please be aware of that when discussing your situation with them. In our messages to our member institutions, we will reinforce the key Home Office message, which is that no one, including students and sponsors, will be penalised for trying to deal reasonably with a situation beyond their control.



Distance learning, blended learning, and face-to-face requirements 

Covid-19: Guidance for Student sponsors, migrants and for Short-term students contains information about distance learning, blended learning, and face-to-face learning requirements. It was last updated on 2 July 2021. See our news item, Updated concessions for Students and sponsors and impacted by the Coronavirus (2 July 2021).

Relevant information about distance learning and blended learning is contained in sections 2 and 3 of the updated guidance. 

Covid-19: Guidance for Student sponsors, migrants and for Short-term students states that distance learning outside of the UK is currently acceptable for new students and those who have already started a course, where you have Student immigration permission. Students outside the UK who do not have UK immigration permission can undertake distance learning. This has always been the case, because you only require immigration permission if you intend to be in the UK. Distance learning is "learning that takes place entirely remotely, without any face-to-face teaching or research activities on the sponsor’s sites."

Student sponsors can continue to sponsor Students for distance learning in the UK until 27 September 2021.

All sponsored students must be studying in the UK by 6 April 2022, by which point face-to-face learning must have resumed.

Sponsored students in the UK between 27 September 2021 and 6 April 2022 must be studying either fully face-to-face or by blended learning (which also must include some face-to-face attendance). Blended learning "requires students to be physically in the UK at least some of the time to attend their studies in person, whist undertaking some study elements online".



English language tests

For details of the Coronavirus concessions put in place for testing English language ability, see English language ability and Coronavirus (Covid-19)



Leaving the UK, including Exceptional Assurance

If your Student permission is ending and you are due to leave, but because of the pandemic you cannot, and you also cannot make an immigration application before your current permission expires, you can request more time in the UK to avoid becoming an overstayer. This is called 'exceptional assurance' and it has been offered by the Home Office since 2020. The scheme has been extended as the pandemic situation has continued. For further details of this provision, see Exceptional assurance

Otherwise, government advice is that you should not travel unless it is essential, with some exempt destinations. 'Essential' is not defined, but it is clear that you should avoid travel as far as possible, particularly during times of tighter restrictions and lockdown. You must not travel if you have symptoms of the illness or have been in contact with people who may be infected.

You might want to leave because you are worried about the situation in the UK. Please check travel advice for the UK country in which you are living, as well as the country you want to travel to, before you make a decision.

In England, see National lockdown: Stay at Home - International travel which includes reference to the fact that, from 8 March 2021, if you are travelling outside of the UK from England you must complete a government travel declaration form.

Additionally, see our news item DfE advise international students on travel over Easter (17 March 2021) in which we publish DfE's position on the arrangements international students can be making for the Easter break.

In Scotland, see Coronavirus (COVID-19): student home visits.

For general information about travelling abroad at the moment, see Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advice. Although it is aimed at British citizens, most of it is relevant to everyone who is resident in the UK. It also provides an overview of what's happening in other countries at the same link; choose the country you want to travel to and then select 'Coronavirus'. Country-specific information appears under the box near the top of the page

Many countries have different travel restrictions and rules about self-isolation and quarantine. Check with the country you want to travel to and if information is confusing or does not sound right, try to find out what the embassy says. Some countries might make exceptions to travel bans for nationals and residents - check if you can register for alerts about repatriation with your country's embassy or high commission in the UK.

Universities, colleges and schools in the UK often have links with embassies and may be able to help you. Unfortunately, we do not have those contacts. Some countries require evidence that you have not tested positive for COVID-19 before you can board a plane to travel there. The NHS does not provide free tests for travel so you will need to pay for a test privately.

Money Saving Expert provides advice about the options available to you if your flight is cancelled or you need to cancel travel, also insurance and refunds.  



Leaving the UK earlier than expected

If you have to leave the UK earlier than expected, for any reason, you must tell your education provider. It is very important that they know what you are doing. This not just because of their duties towards the Home Office - they also need to know whether you are well or need help in any way.

Impact on sponsorship

Your student sponsor should not report your departure to the Home Office if your reason for leaving is connected with Coronavirus (COVID-19) and you let them know that you intend to return to the UK at some point in the future to continue your study. See Covid-19: Guidance for Student sponsors, migrants and for Short-term students.

This means that you will be able to return to the UK to resume study, as long as you are able to travel back before your immigration permission expires.

If you think or know that your student sponsor has reported you to the the Home Office, you can ask them in writing to withdraw the report. If they withdraw their report, you will be able to return to the UK on your existing immigration permission and so they will be acting in line with the latest Home Office guidance.

If your reason for leaving the UK early is not connected with the pandemic or you do not intend to return to the UK for study, you should expect your sponsor to withdraw sponsorship from you and your immigration permission will usually be cut short (curtailed) so do not attempt to re-enter the UK using your current permission.

Waiting for a decision on an immigration application

Try to avoid leaving before you receive a decision as you will usually be treated as withdrawing your application. This can make it difficult for you to return to the UK. Talk to an international student adviser at your institution before you leave the UK and/or contact the Home Office.

Biometric residence permits

When you apply in the UK, your BRP is sent directly to you. If you leave the UK after you were granted an extension but before you receive your biometric residence permit (BRP), you can ask your education provider or someone else who is still in the UK to forward it to you.

If the courier cannot deliver your BRP, the Home Office may cancel it. This means you will need to apply for a replacement BRP visa in order to re-enter the UK, followed by a new BRP once you are back in the UK - see Passport, visa and BRP problems. Ask your sponsor for information about what happened to your BRP. Alternatively, you can contact the Home Office.

Post offices and education providers hold entry clearance BRPs for a period of at least 90 days. If you will not be able to return to the UK during the validity of your visa in order to collect your BRP, you need to report this to the Home Office, along with information about when you intend to return to the UK, if you know: If you had arranged to collect your BRP from your education provider, make sure you let them know and ask them if they can keep it for you.


Your immigration health surcharge will not be refunded. You should check the terms of your education and accommodation contracts and ask the providers in case you can obtain a full or partial refund if you leave the UK earlier than planned. For information about this, and sources of help with negotiations, see our information on financial hardship and accommodation below.



When Student sponsors will withdraw sponsorship

In most Coronavirus-related situations, your Student sponsor should not report you to the Home Office or withdraw sponsorship.

The Home Office Advice for Worker, Temporary Worker and Student sponsors sets out the situations when sponsors should report you (these are few) and when they do not need to report you.

On the subject of when a student sponsor must report you or withdraw sponsorship, the guidance says:

“If a student has permanently withdrawn from their studies or deferred their studies for a period exceeding 60 days, [the student sponsor] must report this as usual”

“If a student stops engaging with their distance learning for more than 30 days, whether overseas or in the UK, [the student sponsor] must withdraw sponsorship”.

Student sponsors do not need to report you or withdraw sponsorship when:

  • you are changing to distance learning in, or outside of, the UK; and/or
  • you are studying by distance learning, you have entry clearance, and you have not yet been able to travel to the UK.

Education providers need to know that you are safe and well, and that you are engaging with your studies. This is difficult for them if you are not physically present in classes or lectures. Student sponsors may monitor your engagement with your distance learning studies, and they should inform you of the requirements you must meet. Make sure that you always inform your student sponsor if you are not able to study, or to do assessments or take exams, even if you are studying online in a distance learning arrangement.

You may not have been able to make an immigration application yet, either because your course start date has changed or you have not been able to travel to the UK. If your sponsor has assigned a confirmation of acceptance of studies (CAS) you will still be able to apply for immigration permission and the Home Office may still grant your application. The Home Office says applications will be considered on a “case-by-case basis”.



How periods of overstay will be regarded

Usually, if you stay in the UK without immigration permission when you are required to hold it ("overstaying"), you will encounter many problems. These include: not being allowed to study, to work, to rent private property, to open and hold a bank account, to drive, to have access to free NHS treatment; and having future immigration applications refused automatically. However, in the case of periods in the UK without immigration permission caused by Coronavirus, Advice for UK visa applicants and temporary UK residents previously stated that:

"If your visa or leave expired between 24 January 2020 and 31 August 2020 there will be no future adverse immigration consequences if you didn’t make an application to regularise your stay during this period. However, if you have not applied to regularise your stay or submitted a request for an exceptional assurance you must make arrangements to leave the UK".

You are not regarded as an overstayer during the period waiting for an exceptional assurance decision or when you are granted it. However, although the Home Office says that it will not regard you as an overstayer, it also says that you have not been granted immigration permission under these scheme. Make sure that you keep any evidence of your reasons for being in the UK after your immigration permission expired, for example, screen shots or other notifications of cancelled flights, information about entry restrictions for the country you need to travel to, correspondence from the Coronavirus Immigration Help team. This is particularly important if you need to make an immigration application in the future, when you would usually have to declare any periods when you were in the UK without immigration permission, and may need evidence of what caused it. 

You will not be regarded as being "in breach of immigration laws" (and thus likely to have your application refused) if you overstayed at any time and for any period between 24 January and 31 August 2020. This means that, whether or not you applied under the free extension scheme or for exceptional assurance between these dates, you will be able to apply for immigration permission in the UK, if you meet all other relevant requirements, and will not be subject to entry clearance bans.

You will be an overstayer if you are in the UK and your permission expires before you make an immigration application or you do not request exceptional assurance.



Making an immigration application in the UK

If you meet all the requirements of the Student or Child Student route, you can just apply in the normal way. For details of the requirements, see Making a Student route application in the UK and speak with your institution.

If you do not meet all the requirements to extend your stay in this route, a number of concessions have been put in place that may be helpful. For details of additional limited concessions, see the information about the following Student Route requirements which benefit from these concessions:

Attending UKVCAS appointments

For details of the Covid-19 arrangements made for students attending UKVCAS appointments, see Coronavirus (Covid-19): Sopra Steria update on UKVCAS appointments.



Biometric residence permits

Applications outside the UK  

Our guide to Passport, visa and BRP problems includes guidance on the current special arrangements for collecting your BRP after you travel to the UK, or if your travel to the UK is delayed and your vignette expires. 

Applications inside the UK

When you apply in the UK, your BRP is sent directly to you by courier. If you leave the UK before you receive it, see our information above on Leaving the UK earlier than expected.

Free extension scheme

You were not sent an updated biometric residence permit if you applied under the free extension scheme, and the same applies to the 'grace period' (to 31 August) and 'exceptional assurance'. The Home Office should have a record of your situation, but if you are worried about this, you can ask the Home Office's Coronavirus Immigration Help Centre.



Police registration

Many UK police forces have suspended police registration. Check the website of your police force or ask your student sponsor for updates. You will not be penalised for not attending or making an appointment if you are, or someone you live with is, ill or if the service is not operating. This includes people who have left the UK without registering, and who will need to re-enter in the future.

You will be expected to register when your local police force resumes service.

Home Office guidance states that from 20 March 2020 you are not required to register with the police or report a change of circumstances if social distancing measures prevent this. Registration and updating will resume once police services re-open -  see Covid-19: Guidance for Student sponsors, migrants and short-term students



Making an immigration application outside the UK

Our guide to Applying for a Student route visa outside the UK now includes all relevant special arrangements related to the Coronavirus pandemic.

For other types of visa application, speak to your education provider and see Advice for UK visa applicants and temporary UK residents.



EU settlement scheme and absences from the UK

Our information at Brexit - EU Settlement Scheme includes any relevant information related to the Coronavirus pandemic, including about absences from the UK. You can also find details of how to apply under the scheme in the UK or abroad.



Travel in the UK

If you use public transport in the UK, you must wear a face covering. Public transport includes trains, buses, trams, coaches, ferries, underground, planes, cable cars. In England, has published the following information:

See What do 'lockdown', 'tiers' and 'protection levels' mean? for information about restrictions on movement in your area.

Full details about travel in the UK are in government guidance issued by the four UK countries:



Healthcare in the UK: Covid testing, treatment and vaccination

For information about free testing, treatment, and vaccination for Covid-19, in your part of the UK see our Health and healthcare page. Look for the ‘Treatment that is free for everyone’ section in either EnglandScotlandWales, or Northern Ireland.




For information concerning the provisions made for those in student accommodation, see Coronavirus (Covid-19): guidance for students living in university or college halls of residence.

For information concerning the provisions made for those in private accommodation, see Coronavirus (Covid-19): guidance for students living in private accommodation

Sources of information 

Save the Student has helpful information about a range of potential accommodation problems.

Universities UK has put together a series of frequently asked questions, with answers, about accommodation matters. The Office for Students has published a briefing note on student accommodation, including examples of good practice, advice and links to relevant information.



Work during and after study, including the Graduate route

For information about special arrangements that may affect your work during study, see Coronavirus (COVID-19) work concessions.

Details of how distance learning may affect your ability to apply under the Graduate Route (post-study work) when it is launched in summer 2021 are in Graduate route ("post-study work")

Relevant government guidance



Financial hardship and no access to public funds

Financial hardship 

If you are experiencing financial hardship because of Coronavirus, see our page on Unexpected financial hardship and, specifically, the info on Financial hardship because of Coronavirus (COVID-19).

Public funds

Students and short-term students are subject to the immigration condition, 'no access to public funds'. This means that you cannot apply for certain welfare benefits and social housing. However, the UK Government has set up certain schemes, to prevent hardship for workers, which are not defined as 'public funds'. See Public Funds for information related to the Coronavirus.



Tuition fee refunds

Petitions and debates in Parliament

Hundreds of thousands of students have signed petitions demanding compensation for losses attributable to Coronavirus (COVID-19). Parliament has debated the matter in July and on 16 November.

In the debate on 16 November 2020, the UK Minister for Universities stated that:

"This has been an unprecedented year, so it is really important to recognise the tireless work of university lecturers, administrators and support staff over the past few months, and how students have adapted. However, I will make one message clear today: students have not been forgotten. I will continue to work across Government to ensure that universities uphold their obligations under consumer law. We must ensure that students and staff are safe and supported, and that students receive the high quality of education that they rightly expect."

Other MPs raised many matters including accommodation, access to online learning and the value of campaigns and support provided by students' unions. This debate and a lot of background information are summarised in a House of Commons Library research briefing.

Student complaints

The Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education (OIAHE) has clear information about tuition fee refunds. Although the OIAHE deals only with complaints from students studying in England and Wales, the general principles are relevant to everyone.

The OIAHE has considered, and partially upheld, a complaint from an international student.

The student was awarded £1,000. This represents compensation for not being able to study one module of a course as a result of disruption caused by Coronavirus (COVID-19), and the institution's failure to put acceptable alternatives in place.

In the case of one module, the course leader made arrangements so that group work, support and feedback could continue online. The OIAHE did not award compensation in relation to this module.

In another module, four weeks of classes and a project were cancelled and the project was not replaced by an assessment with similar objectives. The OIAHE calculated compensation for this module on the basis of the value of the lost teaching hours and the loss of opportunity to develop research and writing skills. They reduced the full amount by 30 per cent because the institution continued to provide other services, including pastoral support and online library facilities. 

The OIAHE also held that the student's education provider did not give the complaint proper consideration and recommended that it amend its complaints procedures.

Every case is decided on its facts including the way in which your education provider handles your concerns.

You must use the internal complaints procedure at your college or university before you can complain to:



Concessions for fee status and student finance eligibility

The governments of England, Wales and Scotland have confirmed that your eligibility for home fee status and student finance will not be affected if you cannot be physically present in the UK, or the relevant part of the UK, by the specified date for a Covid-related reason. For details, see our news items:

There are no other special arrangements or concessions. 

Your eligibility for "home" fees or student finance may be have been affected by, for example:

  • delayed decisions on your application for indefinite leave or settled status
  • delayed grants of British or EEA nationality, including postponed citizenship ceremonies
  • not being able to get married or enter into a civil partnership as planned 

While such delays have been caused by Covid-19 and they are beyond your control there are, unfortunately, no government concessions on eligibility deadlines for home fee status or student finance.

Course providers may exercise discretion in your favour. This has financial consequences for them so you need to discuss this with them and explain your situation in detail If they cannot help you, consider contacting your MP and ask them to raise your case with the relevant government department. 

Please note that UKCISA does not decide who is a home fee payer or who is entitled to student finance.

You might need to ask about starting your course later than you want, in the hope that you will by then be eligible. 



Student finance and scholarships

Government student finance bodies have published a lot of information, including assurances that student loans and other forms of support will continue, even if you cannot attend classes and lectures. Keep up to date with information about the impact of Covid-19 on this subject area in our Scholarships and funding your studies page.