On 23 June 2021, Universities UK International (UUKi) published a press release about how UK universities are preparing to welcome international students in September. 

UK universities are making preparations to welcome international students in September as the vaccine roll out continues successfully, with over 80 per cent of the UK adult population now having received their first dose.   

To help students understand the vaccine procedures, the National Health Service (NHS) in England has released guidance on the Covid-19 vaccine and how students can access it. You can find the information here

The guidance answers some of the key questions including that all international students in the UK will be able to access the vaccine free of charge. The UK government has also confirmed that vaccination is not currently a requirement for entry into the UK, but the government does  encourage students to have the vaccine, either in a different country or in the UK.  

By the middle of May, and earlier in many cases, all current university students across the UK were permitted to return to their studies. Now universities are working hard to prepare for the arrival of international students for the start of term, ensuring everyone has the excellent student experience for which UK universities are renowned.   

Vivienne Stern, Director, Universities UK International has praised the university sector for its great work in enabling a safe return to universities for all remaining students: 'Academic colleagues and all of those involved in supporting student learning and wellbeing have worked hard to ensure the health and wellbeing of the whole university community throughout this time. We are now all looking forward to welcoming students to university campuses for the new academic year.'

Preparations to welcome new students will include providing clear information on any Covid-19  measures which are required to ensure everyone’s safety, as well as ensuring that there are wellbeing support services in place for international students to access when needed.  

Professor Richard Follett, Deputy Pro Vice Chancellor and Associate Vice President International at the University of Sussex, said: 'The pandemic has been challenging but I’m  proud of how the UK Higher Education system has prioritised support for students and their  wellbeing. Universities responded swiftly by moving teaching online without compromising quality and ensuring teaching spaces and laboratories were Covid safe.'

'I’m particularly proud of how Sussex has gone the extra mile in supporting staff and students in difficult circumstances. Our staff developed new protective equipment to keep students, staff and the wider community safe, establishing asymptomatic testing facilities on campus in collaboration with City and regional authorities. We have innovated in the digital space, creating new online courses, developing new virtual hubs for prospective students and running virtual Graduation ceremonies and Welcome Weeks. Our online reporting App supporting students isolating under Covid regulations has also won an Innovation Award.' 

Making the switch to online learning was quite a change for most at university, but many found  that the flexibility of having lectures recorded to review again, as well as studying through online platforms which still allowed interaction with their tutors, had unexpected advantages.  

Huijing Gao, a student at The University of South Wales felt well supported: 'Although I was  not able to travel to campus for face-to-face lectures, online lectures added to the flexibility of  learning. Many of the issues in online learning could be raised and discussed with the lecturer in  the online classroom and this did not affect the learning in any way. The university also provided  many online resources, such as online book volumes, which ensured that we could read  literature and materials when the library was closed.'  

A focus for universities now is the support of new and returning students and a large part of this work is focused around student support and wellbeing. UK universities already have excellent student support services in place, such as wellbeing counsellors, 24-hour helplines and easy access to healthcare. All students are able to register with a doctor when they arrive and access healthcare and other wellbeing services.   

Rumana has been studying at Huddersfield University and really appreciated the support she received: 'Being a part of the Students’ Union staff, I have had immense support and help to try new things like meditation, reading books, cooking healthy meals, pampering myself, following inspirational social media accounts and listening to positive talks or songs. We also have an amazing academic society that promotes and raises awareness about mental health through their Instagram account. I found it really helpful and assertive.'  

Research carried out by IDP Connect showed international students arriving in the UK during the pandemic reported receiving more physical and mental health support, including support when quarantining, than from any other study destination.   

Ananya Banerjee is a student at Falmouth University and felt very supported from her arrival in the UK: 'Since the day I have arrived here, after completing my quarantine, I have seen health and hygiene guidance everywhere, hygiene stations placed around the campus, guidelines, and emails regarding self-testing, and an extremely well-managed test centre at the campus sports centre, and teams following up with us to ensure we are being responsible with our practices. The cleaning crew cleans the premises regularly, we have an ample supply of disinfectant for the common area, and it is ensured that we keep our distance with a different bubble.' 

The aim for all universities in the UK is to offer a safe and welcoming start to all new students, providing the quality of education and exceptional student experience international students are coming to the UK for.  

Professor Karen Stanton, Vice Chancellor of Solent University says: 'We are delighted to welcome international students onto our campus in September. They are an integral part of Solent University’s community and we have been working hard to ensure that all our students will have the opportunity to benefit from Solent’s excellent education, in a Covid-safe and  friendly environment. Solent is a university focused on real-world education and in addition to our on-campus learning experience, international students will have lots of opportunities to engage in additional activities to develop their studies, make new friends and enjoy a full Solent  UK social and cultural experience.'

To understand what measures will be in place for September arrivals, international students are advised to contact their chosen university for the most up-to-date information on arrival procedures and support available. 

1. Students planning to study in the UK in 2021-22 can find information on the British Council Study UK webpage.

2. Universities UK International (UUKi) represents more than 140 UK higher education institutions (HEIs) globally and helps them flourish internationally. To do this we actively promote UK HEIs abroad, provide trusted information for and about them, and create new opportunities through our unique ability to act at sector level. We draw on UK university expertise to influence policy in the UK and overseas, delivering information, advice and guidance to facilitate mutually beneficial collaboration between UK HEIs and a broad range of  international partners. For more information visit: https://www.universitiesuk.ac.uk/international 

(Source: UUKi)