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University students and COVID-19 FAQ

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Universities Minister Michelle DonelanAnswers to frequently asked questions from university students on how the coronavirus might impact higher education.

Universities Minister Michelle Donelan:

The Government is doing all it can to keep staff and students at our universities safe during this unprecedented situation, while mitigating the impact on people’s education.

As Universities Minister, I understand that this is an extremely difficult time and I want to reassure you that we are putting students at the heart of all our work.

Over the last few months I have listened to and received lots of questions about the impact of Coronavirus and what this means for you.

Taking the most frequently asked questions, I have provided the latest information and answers that people want to know, including on exams, fees, accommodation, support and visas.

Universities are independent and unlike schools they are responsible for the decisions they take in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Action taken by one university might not be best for another. The Government will support the sector to do what is best for students up and down the country.

Teaching and exams

When will I be able to return to my university building or campus?  

Universities are autonomous bodies, and we are working with providers to help them make informed decisions on when they can safely make buildings and campuses accessible again for staff and students. 

We have been very clear that we are following the latest scientific evidence and medical advice and further guidance will be provided when it is appropriate. 

Will I be able to sit my finals and how will I be graded? 

We are working with the sector to ensure universities are able to make all reasonable efforts for students to continue and complete their studies. This includes moving learning online. 

The Office for Students (OfS), the higher education regulator in England, has published guidance on how universities can reliably assess student achievement and award qualifications during the pandemic. 

As the situation develops, the Government wants to ensure students continue to leave university with qualifications that have real value, reflect their hard work and allow people to progress. We are working closely with the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education to help make sure this happens. 

Fees and fee loans

Will my tuition fees be refunded due to the changes?

We recognise this is a difficult and uncertain time for students and we are working with the sector to make sure all reasonable efforts are being made to enable students to continue their studies. We have seen some fantastic and innovative examples of high-quality online learning being delivered by providers across the country  

 The Government expects universities to continue delivering a high quality academic experience and help students to achieve qualifications that they and employers value. 

Universities are autonomous and responsible for setting their own fees. In deciding to keep charging full fees, universities will of course want to ensure that they can continue to deliver courses which are fit for purpose and help students progress their qualifications.  

 Whether or not an individual student is entitled to a refund of fees will depend on the specific contractual arrangements between them and their provider. 

 If students have concerns, there is a process in place. They should first raise their concerns with their university. If their concerns remain unresolved, students at providers in England or Wales can ask the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education to consider their complaint 


Can I collect my belongings from my student accommodation? 

We know many of you are concerned about collecting your belongings from your term-time accommodation. That was not possible under the previous guidance but the government’s COVID-19 recovery strategy published on 11 May sets out a cautious roadmap to ease those measures in a safe and measured way. 

While all of us should stay at home as much as possible to protect ourselves and other people, the strategy allows for certain necessary travel if people take precautions in line with the principles in Annex A of the strategy and other published guidance, such as on travel and social distancing. 

This means that, if you are a student who left student accommodation in England and now wishes to travel back to that accommodation to recover your belongings, you can do so providing you continue to avoid public transport wherever possible and follow the latest travel and social distancing guidance of the nation where you are currently residing. 

You should discuss a date and time to collect your belongings with your accommodation provider. Most higher education providers will contact tenants of university accommodation about arrangements, but if you rent privately-owned accommodation you should contact the provider directly. Please be patient if your collection time needs to be set for future weeks to allow for appropriate social distancing to be maintained.  

Guidance to higher education providers on students leaving or collecting belongings from accommodation is on

If I don’t go back to my student accommodation, what will happen to my belongings?

If you are not able to collect your possessions, either because you are self-isolating or are otherwise unable to travel, accommodation providers should store your items for collection at a future date. There may be costs to the provider associated in carrying out this service and students may be required to cover these costs. We would not expect a provider to make a profit from such a service.

What if I am travelling from outside England?

Students who wish to travel from Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland or international destinations to make a collection must follow the travel guidance relevant to that nation, including following the advice for any return trip. This includes international travellers abiding by any further measures the UK government introduces.

Can I leave my student accommodation and go home?

If you are still resident in student accommodation and wish to make a one-off move to an alternative residence, you may do so providing you take precautions in line with the principles in Annex A of the government’s COVID-19 recovery strategy and in other published guidance, such as on travel and social distancing.

You should also inform your provider of your intention to leave your student accommodation. Advice to providers on moving or collecting belongings from accommodation has also been published.

Will I get a refund of my accommodation costs if I have returned home?   

The Government urges universities and private hall providers to be fair and clear in their decisions about rent charges for this period. A number of large companies have waived rents for the summer term or released students early from their contracts, including Unite. 

Private student accommodation providers who are facing difficulty during this time may be able to access the support packages announced by the Chancellor to protect businesses. 

Students who are tenants with individual private landlords can discuss with them the possibility of an early release from their tenancy agreement. 

Landlords are now required under the Coronavirus Act 2020 to give students impacted by Covid-19 three months notice before they can seek possession of a property. This came into force on Thursday 26 March 2020. As a result, no renter in private accommodation will be forced out of their home during this difficult time. (Students renting under licence, as applies in most halls, are ineligible for this support). 

 Students who return home or whose rent circumstances change will continue to receive maintenance loan payments. 

Maintenance loans 

Will I still receive my maintenance payments?

Students who return home or whose rent circumstances change will continue to receive maintenance loan payments. 


I’ve lost my part-time job. What support is available for me? 

Students with a part time employment contract should speak to their employer about the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, which has been set up to help pay staff wages and keep people in employment.  

Maintenance loan payments will continue for the remainder of the current academic year. 

If you are suffering particular hardship, many universities will already have hardship funds to support students most in need and you should contact your institution. 

Can I still access mental health support at this time?   

Many students will be feeling uncertain and anxious and it is vital that they can still access the mental health support they need. The Government has told Vice-Chancellors to prioritise this and many universities are bolstering their existing mental health services and adapting them in the absence of face-to-face support.  

Students who are struggling with their mental health at this time can also access online resources from Public Health England, along with online support from the NHS and mental health charity Mind. 


I am an international student and my visa is about to expire. I cannot return home because of travel restrictions. What happens to my visa?  

The Government is working to ensure existing rules and regulations are as flexible as possible under the current unprecedented circumstances. 

Any student whose leave expired after the 24 January and who cannot leave the country because of travel restrictions or self-isolation will be able to extend their visa to 31 May 2020. This will be kept under regular review. Individuals must contact the Coronavirus Immigration Team to advise of their situation. 

I am on a Tier 4 visa. Can I now study via distance learning?  

Due to the current exceptional circumstances, the Home Office will not consider it a breach of visa or sponsor duties if Tier 4 students undertake distance learning whether they are in the UK or another country. 

Sponsors do not need to withdraw sponsorship in these circumstances. 

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