UK universities
UK universities say they have the experience and accommodation, including even their own hotels, to quarantine Indian students. Source: Lindsey Parnaby/AFP

UK universities have offered to “hotel quarantine” students from India after it was added to a “red list” of countries from which most travel to the UK is banned over fears of a new COVID-19 variant, reported The Telegraph. Universities have expressed concerns that the UK government will not be able to cope with an influx of up to 50,000 Indian students flying into the UK in autumn, on top of up to 1,000 more a day arriving from other red list countries.

UK Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Matt Hancock announced on Monday (April 19) that from 04:00 BST on April 23, most people who have travelled from India in the last 10 days will be refused entry. British or Irish passport holders, or people with UK residence rights, will be allowed in but must quarantine in a government-approved hotel for 10 days that could cost up to 1,750 pounds per person. Indian students have been exempted from the travel ban. 

UK universities say they have the experience and accommodation, including their own hotels, to quarantine Indian students and potentially cover their costs. This is to reduce hardship or prevent students from losing hard-won places, said the report. Universities UK International (UUKi) has been in talks with the government over the plan — an agreement with the Scottish government for international students attending universities there is understood to be on the brink of being signed. UUKi is the international arm of Universities UK, representing UK universities and acting​ in their collective interests​ globally.

UK universities ramp up efforts to support Indian students

UK universities

The British High Commission in India said there is no flight ban in place between the UK and India. Source: Adrian Dennis/AFP

Some universities such as Heriot-Watt and Birmingham had their hotel accommodation typically used for parents or visitors, while the sector had already established protocols for quarantining international students, UUKI director Vivienne Stern told The Telegraph.  “Universities are already managing self-isolation requirements for visitors. Given the government may have difficulty providing capacity, they should look at where universities have accommodation that could meet the standard of the hotel quarantine system,” she said.

Figures from Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) showed that there had been a notable increase of 38,580 Indian students over five years — 2015/16 to 2019/20 — at UK universities. There were 55,465 Indian students at UK higher education institutions in 2019/20.

These students are a major source of income for many institutions, providing some 10,000 to 60,000 pounds a year through fees on top of any wider benefits to the UK economy, according to The Telegraph. Some 14,000 students are currently stranded in India studying remotely; under Boris Johnson’s roadmap, they could return to their universities from the scheduled date of May 17.