This is an unsettling and worrying time for everyone. We know that students are facing significant disruption to their studies and that the future is uncertain. It is obviously not possible in this fast-changing situation for us to answer all the questions you may have, but we hope these FAQs are helpful to you.
How will coronavirus affect my studies and assessments?
The straight answer is that it’s really hard to say. Higher education providers are having to cope with unprecedented challenges. Teaching and support staff are having to work remotely, some may be directly affected by coronavirus and many will have caring responsibilities.
Providers are making individual decisions about how to approach teaching and assessments. Different providers will offer different responses to the challenges students are facing. Students on different courses at the same provider may also have different options from each other. Providers are looking at whether teaching and assessments should be postponed, delivered remotely, delivered by some other means, or not delivered at all.
It is not yet clear how long social distancing measures may be in place, or whether any other measures will be needed. This means providers will probably not be able to answer immediately all the questions you may have about how your studies will be affected, and you may need to be patient while they try to work these things out. You should regularly check your provider’s website, your email, and any other channel the provider usually uses to communicate with you (including via the Virtual Learning Environment) for updates.
I am not able to study because of coronavirus. What should I do?
Students shouldn’t be penalised for missing any teaching or assessments because they have coronavirus symptoms, because they are following advice to self-isolate, or because they have unexpected caring responsibilities. Your provider should tell you what you should do in these circumstances, and how you should report a sickness absence to it. We are encouraging providers to relax any strict rules they may have about needing medical evidence to support sickness absences.
What about placement opportunities?
Many students undertake placements in professional settings during their studies. Some of these may be cut short in order to protect you and the service users. In some other placements, you may be asked to do more, or do different activities to what you might expect. Providers will need to take account later of how your placement activities changed, and may have to talk with professional regulators about how this affects your qualification or progress.
In the meantime, keep a record of what you have been doing, or what had to be changed or missed. If you have any concerns about your wellbeing or what you are being asked to do, raise them as soon as you can with whoever has immediate responsibility for you in the placement setting, and contact your HE provider to let them know.
Will I still be able to study abroad?
If you were expecting to study abroad in the near future, it is very likely that this will be disrupted. It is not yet clear how long travel restrictions may be in place, and which countries may be affected. Your provider should let you know what options are available to you as the situation becomes more stable. It should let you know how it plans to deliver learning opportunities to you, if study abroad can’t go ahead as planned.
How will coronavirus affect my visa?
Advice from the Home Office says that in the current exceptional circumstances, it will not take any compliance action against students who are unable to attend their studies due to the coronavirus outbreak. If you miss any teaching because you are unwell, or because you are following advice about self-isolating or social distancing measures, this should not affect your visa.
You can find up to date information about visas and immigration advice on the government website. There is also a free of charge coronavirus immigration helpline 0800 678 1767 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm) or you can email CIH@homeoffice.gov.uk
At this time, decisions have not yet been made about visas if a person has to significantly extend their planned period of study.
Another source of information for International Students is UKCISA.
Can I make a complaint to my provider about the impact of coronavirus?
You can make a complaint to your provider about how the coronavirus has affected your studies. Depending on the circumstances, you may also be able to make an academic appeal if your progress or grades have been affected. But many providers will not yet know what measures will be put in place to overcome the challenges the disruption is causing for students. It may be better to wait until your provider has told you what it will be able to do, and what it will not be able to do. Then you should tell the provider if you are not satisfied with what it has said. It is important both that providers do everything they can to minimise the impact of the disruption and that students are realistic about what is possible in these unprecedented circumstances.
I have already made a complaint/appeal/have a disciplinary process ongoing. What will happen now?
It is likely that providers will be short-staffed to some extent in the coming weeks, as a result of staff becoming unwell, having to self-isolate, or having caring responsibilities. We encourage providers to address all complaints and appeals within a reasonable timeframe. But it’s likely that staff who might usually carry out these activities may have to be directed towards other frontline support services or emergency planning work. This means that complaints and appeals may not be as much of a priority as some of these tasks. Your provider should let you know if your complaint or appeal has been delayed, and keep you updated on progress. But you may need to be more patient than under ordinary circumstances.
I already have a complaint with the OIA. Are you still open?
We are still open! Our staff are able to do their work from home and this includes making and receiving calls. Some complaints may take a little longer than usual though. It’s likely that some of our staff will need to take time off work, and we will have to wait longer than usual for some information from providers.
If you have a complaint with us and need some more time to send us information, please get in touch with us to let us know. We will take a flexible approach to deadlines for responding to us. Most people use email or Dropbox to send us documents and correspondence. Our office is mostly closed so if you do need to send something by post, please let us know.
I have not yet made my complaint to the OIA and I’m worried about the deadline. What should I do?
Students who have already completed the internal processes at their provider have 12 months to make a complaint to us. If your deadline for making a complaint is soon and you are unwell, please contact us and we can help you to submit a Complaint Form with a few details about your complaint. You can give us more information later on.
Where can I go for extra support?
Your provider may have a welfare service, or you may be able to get advice and support from a students’ union or other representative body. These services may be operating remotely and are likely to be busier than usual. Some students’ unions may be arranging additional activities you can get involved in to help the community or keep in touch with other students.
This is a worrying and exceptionally challenging time for everyone. We know that students and staff working at higher education providers may be very anxious. You may find these resources helpful.
If you need someone to talk to urgently, you can call the Samaritans, free of charge, at any time, on 116 123 or ask for advice by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.