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THE UK: Before you leave - Must read

What you need to know about studying in the UK in 2021

When deciding on studying abroad you need the full picture, especially during what have been unprecedented times. Knowing how to plan and what to expect can make all of the difference. We take a look at the UK.

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If you’re aiming to study in the UK in 2021 or are a currently registered international student, you must be up to date on the latest information that could have an impact on your studies. This way you can plan effectively. Most importantly it’s crucial to familiarise yourself with the latest UK government coronavirus guidance and what this could mean for you. We’ve got you covered on all fronts, including where to get the latest information. Let’s jump right in with the current travel advice for international students.

What is the current advice on international student travel to the UK?

While the UK government and universities remain committed to the resumption of safe face-to-face teaching and learning as part of a blended model, due to the current national lockdown in place in England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, international students are being advised not to travel and delay their journey to the UK.


The primary reason for the decision is to reduce the transmission of the virus and prevent the spread of new variants. Reducing the number of students on campus and accessing university facilities, aims to ensure student and staff safety. Border restrictions are also in place as a measure to protect health and well-being.

UK universities and the government are proposing a phased return of students to campus, with courses that should ideally be delivered in-person being given priority. This covers subjects and degrees with significant practical elements including:

The majority of other qualifications and courses will continue to be offered online, with a firm commitment to quality and innovation, and plans to transition to in-person teaching when possible.

What current travel restrictions are in place in the UK?

If you do travel to the UK and are unable to delay your journey, it’s important to be aware of the current restrictions in place. The UK has established robust and strict procedures for international arrivals in line with the latest scientific advice. Presently all travel corridors to the UK are suspended and no individuals from any country are exempt from the following requirements:

  • If you travel to the UK you will need to take a PCR Covid-19 test three days before travel and provide evidence of the result.
  • On arrival in the UK, you will need to self-isolate and quarantine for ten days at your own cost.
  • You will need to take two further coronavirus tests on the second and eighth day of your quarantine. You must book and pay for this package before arrival, which will cost you GBP 210. The booking and payment can be done online.  
  • You will need to complete a passenger locator form that includes your test package booking reference.
  • You can only leave your accommodation for very specific reasons when self-isolating, such as for medical care or in case of an emergency.
  • It may be possible to be released early from quarantine by booking a private Covid-19 test five days into self-isolation under the “Test to Release” scheme.

It is critical to note that the UK government has introduced legislation that will penalise you if you provide inaccurate or misleading information and or violate the terms of quarantine.

What about travel from countries identified as high-risk?

The UK government has also identified high-risk countries for which additional travel restrictions and measures apply. If a country has been placed on the “red list” then travel from this country is banned, except for UK and Irish nationals or those with residence rights in the UK. If you have travelled from or passed through a “red list” country ten days before arriving in the UK then:


  • You need to take a PCR coronavirus test three days before travel and show proof of the result
  • You will have to quarantine for ten days in a government-approved and managed hotel, at your own expense, with an estimated cost of GBP 1,800. 
  • You will need to take two coronavirus tests, on day two and day eight of your quarantine.
  • The “Test to Release” scheme does not apply to anyone who has travelled from a high-risk country.
  • You’ll also have to observe all of the national lockdown rules.

The countries which have been placed on the “red list” are:

Angola; Argentina; Bolivia; Botswana; Brazil; Burundi; Cape Verde; Chile; Colombia; The Democratic Republic of the Congo; Ecuador; Eswatini; French Guiana; Guyana; Lesotho; Malawi; Mauritius; Mozambique; Namibia; Panama; Paraguay; Peru; Portugal (including Madeira and the Azores); Rwanda; Seychelles; South Africa; Suriname; Tanzania; United Arab Emirates (UAE); Uruguay; Venezuela; Zambia; Zimbabwe.

How are UK universities and the UK government supporting students?

The number one priority for both the UK government and universities is the health and well-being of students and university communities. Providing the necessary guidance, resources, information and support has been placed front and centre. This includes the provision of high-quality online teaching, where in-person learning is not possible, and the establishment of a GBP 50 million student relief fund aimed at helping those students most affected by the coronavirus pandemic. Access to medical and health services has also been prioritised.

Universities have been developing new protocols, safety measures, and policies to design campuses that are safe and secure. This has all been done in line with the latest public health and scientific advice. Institutions have continued to support the academic ambitions of students to undertake degree study or complete qualifications during the pandemic, with the provision of different modes of learning delivery and flexible models. There’s a reason why The UK has 18 institutions in the top 100 worldwide (QS World University Rankings 2021).

While the UK has implemented stringent travel restrictions to curb the spread of the virus, it has demonstrated flexibility with regards to immigration policies and rules related to students during the course of the pandemic. Some examples include:

  • Visa extensions and a new visa qualification system.
  • Granting permission for international students to continue studying via the provision of blended and online learning models.
  • Concessions to students on the timing of leaving the UK with the granting of additional time (exceptional assurance) in the event students cannot travel.
  • In cases of ‘exceptional assurance’ being granted, students can also apply for leave to remain from within the UK.
  • The introduction of a new post-study graduate route allowing for two years of work experience in the UK upon completion of an undergraduate or master’s degree.
  • Allowing students to apply for the graduate route even in cases where they have studied via distance or blended learning models outside of the UK.

Applications for the student graduate route and the academic year of 2021/22 are currently open.

Where can I find more detailed information on UK policies, advice, and procedures?

We know that there is a dizzying amount of official information on the coronavirus out there. Sometimes knowing where to go to get what you need isn’t the easiest, so we’ve summarised the top UK Covid-19 resources for you.

UK visa and immigration information

UK university teaching

Covid-19 health and scientific guidance

You can also download a copy of all of the key resources:



By understanding the rules and policies in place for students in the UK you’ll be ideally equipped to organise your studies and make plans. You can start by searching for your perfect course and institution using our course matcher tool and you can stay in the know with all of the latest student news.

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'Study in the UK' eBook

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