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University students in England told not to travel home

Students have been urged by the government to not attempt to travel home amid the coronavirus outbreak.

In a letter to vice-chancellors and students, the universities minister Michelle Donelan told students who are still in halls of residence to “stay where you are”.

She also confirmed that the visas of overseas students and staff would be extended, and that students will still receive tuition fee and maintenance payments for term three as scheduled.

In a letter dated 26 March, Ms Donelan said: “The majority of students in this country live away from home and while many students will already have travelled home, I know those who have not are concerned about what they should do now.

“The Government’s advice is that students remaining at university in England should now stay where they are and not attempt to travel. If they are living in student halls, or private rented accommodation, they should remain there and stay indoors while current restrictions are in force.”

Ms Donelan said that although this “inevitably places more pressure” on accommodation and support services, the number of critical workers should be kept to “an absolute minimum”.

The Government’s advice is that students remaining at university in England should now stay where they are and not attempt to travel

– Michelle Donelan

She has been speaking to higher education providers about additional support they can give their students, and she stressed the importance of mental health provision.

Ms Donelan said this was likely to be an “important source of support” during the pandemic, and that “this support is especially necessary for those students in houses in multiple occupation away from campus”.

The minister then confirmed that the Home Office had updated its visa guidance in order to provide greater certainty for international students and staff.

Anyone whose leave expired after 24 January, but is unable to leave the UK because of travel restrictions or self-isolation, will have their visas extended to 31 May.

International students and staff who would ordinarily need to apply for a long-stay visa from their home country will now be able to do so from the UK.

Ms Donelan said: “No individual who is in the UK legally, but whose visa is due to expire or has already expired, and who cannot leave because of travel restrictions related to Covid-19, will be regarded as an overstayer, or suffer any detriment in the future.”

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