Free rice cookers, meal kits, and virtual events for international students returning to the UK

uk universities
A newly arrived passenger wearing a face mask as a precaution against the novel coronavirus walks past a sign at Heathrow airport, west London, on May 22, 2020 with the British government's new 'Stay Alert' message on it. Source: Tolga Akmen/AFP

When UK universities finally get the go-ahead to bring back international students, there will be certain measures to put in place.

Universities like the University of the Arts London, Lancaster University and the University of Lincoln are going the extra mile to ensure that it’s a safe and smooth transition back to university life.

The PIE News reported that during a recent College and University Business Officers webinar, universities in the UK shared best practices for welcoming students back after the pandemic.

Associate Director of Catering, Retail and Accommodation services of University of the Arts London Jane Donachy said measures currently in the works include digitising welcome packs and events, and making sure international students travel from the airport to campus by taxi.

UAL is planning to organise food delivery for students, as well as supply evening meal ingredients by meal kit company Hello Fresh, accompanied by video cooking tutorials.

The University of Lincoln is reportedly offering free items like rice cookers, bedding, and comfort packs.

They will also be offering two weeks of free accommodation to encourage international students to arrive two weeks prior to classes. Those who arrive late will be isolated together.

While they adjust to the new normal, universities in the UK are also planning to host virtual events so that all students feel welcomed.

Donachy said, “We’re going to be doing quizzes by bubbles, arts and crafts, cooking demos, twerk sessions…!”

“We have a DJ the whole first week, which will lifestream via Zoom and we’ll provide pizza and party packs to replace the normal welcome party.”

uk universities

Sun-seekers cool off in the water and sunbathe on the riverbank at Hackney Marshes in east London on June 24, 2020, as temperatures reached 31 degrees C at Heathrow Airport on the hottest day of the year Just days after lockdown ended and European travel restrictions were lifted, many were staying home in the cool Tuesday as a heatwave hit the continent with temperatures touching 40 degrees Celcius. Source: Tolga Akmen/AFP

Will UK universities require international students to self-isolate?

There are, however, many details to be ironed out, such as how to safely isolate students to prevent any potential spread of the virus.

Lancaster University’s head of commercial services Jo Hardman pointed out the university’s concerns regarding allocating accommodation if students are required to self-isolate before starting classes.

Do we allocate on the basis of arrival time? Do we allocate on the basis of country? Traditionally we try to mix students up. But actually we may choose that it’s a lot easier to allocate people by country when they arrive as opposed to looking at the department or academic subject.”

She said that students might be better off isolating with those from their home country, as they will most likely have similar approaches to preventing the spread of COVID-19.

Hardman said: “We’ve recently had complaints from students about other students who’ve gone away and come back on a day trip. They have acted as they legally can but not in ways that other people within those households expect them to be able to behave.

“Particularly amongst our international students, that’s been really quite a significant issue.”

According to a Universities UK poll of 92 universities, 97% have said they will provide some in-person teaching in fall, while 87% said they are planning to offer in-person sporting, fitness and wellbeing activities.

Australia, New Zealand and France are reportedly in the works to bring international students back as early as July this year. The UK has not yet announced any upcoming loosening of travel restrictions.

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