UK universities urged to cover Indian student quarantine costs

UK universities urged to cover Indian student quarantine costs

Concerns mount over the impact of quarantine fee on recruitment, but expert says the government should shoulder the cost

UK universities have been urged to cover the costs of quarantine for international students from India, after being warned that the additional fee could have a significant impact on recruitment.

International students are exempt from the UK’s new travel ban from India, but they must quarantine for 11 days on arrival, at a cost of £1,750.

Earlier this week, the University of Edinburgh was the first institution to announce that it would “support hotel quarantine costs”, to a maximum of £1,750, for “those who are required to be on campus for learning and teaching on an approved program”. It added that applications would be considered on a first-come, first-served basis, and “no new applications will be accepted once all money from the fund has been allocated”.

However, some institutions may be holding out to see whether the government will cover the cost or change its policy for students.

Universities UK International confirmed that it was in discussions with government departments and universities about whether international students would be able to quarantine in university accommodation instead of a “managed quarantine hotel”, as stipulated in the government guidelines. Nurses and boarding school pupils are currently the only exceptions to this rule; they may quarantine in NHS accommodation and at their school, respectively.

Meanwhile, the National Indian Students and Alumni Union UK (NISAU-UK) has written to the education secretary, Gavin Williamson, calling for the government to waive or reduce the quarantine costs for international students.

“Many students have raised a great deal of concern at their inability to be able to pay the £1,750 mandatory cost of managed isolation. For them, this charge is unexpected, sudden, and significant,” the letter says.

Sanam Arora, chair of NISAU-UK, said many Indian students or their families took out bank loans to afford British higher education and called for more universities to follow Edinburgh’s lead and cover the quarantine costs.

“Most Indian students come to do a one-year master’s, which costs about £15,000 on average. So nearly £2,000 on top of the tuition fee is a pretty significant impact,” she said.

“Certainly, for those who are thinking of coming over in September, they will be thinking of the total cost of studying, including this £1,750 charge now. So it will definitely impact students’ decision-making.”

Ms Arora predicted that some Indians would defer their studies to avoid the quarantine costs, while others would be likely to consider other destinations.

Rajika Bhandari, an international education expert, said the high cost of quarantine would “definitely negatively affect those Indian students who, to begin with, have limited resources and whose families are stretching their rupees to send their children abroad” and “universities should consider helping students cover the cost or at least some portion of it”.

Simon Marginson, professor of higher education at the University of Oxford, said “any increase in the price of this magnitude will eliminate a marginal group of buyers”, but he called for the government to carry the cost.

“Foreign students studying in the UK and paying tuition fees and taxes in the UK should have a full entitlement to healthcare support through the NHS, and this should include newly arrived international students…These international students will more than pay the UK back during their time in the UK,” he said.

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