Some UK universities have said they will partially cover the costs of mandated hotel quarantine for new and returning students travelling from red-list countries.
Some higher-education institutions said they would pay up to £1,750 ($2,412) for the mandatory hotel stay and up to £150 (Dh760) for required Covid-19 tests.
Universities are taking these steps to reduce the financial burden on students as they travel abroad to study during the pandemic.
The UAE is on the UK's red list and travellers are required to spend 11 nights in quarantine at a government-approved hotel, even if they have been vaccinated against Covid-19. The official cost of this service is about £1,750.
Royal Holloway, University of London, will be paying up to £1,500 for student’s hotel quarantine if they are arriving from countries on the UK’s red list, and up to £150 for Covid-19 tests.
Angela Milln, director of student recruitment for Royal Holloway, University of London, said the institution wished to support new and returning international students.
“We will be supporting them by refunding the cost, to a maximum level, of the requirements that may apply to new and continuing international students on arrival in the UK, based on the UK government’s current travel guidance," Ms Milln said.
“We know that studying abroad away from home can be daunting for some, even under normal circumstances.
The university is planning for the majority of students to study on campus in September.
“We hope that the support we are providing to new and continuing international students on arrival in the UK will help to alleviate some of these concerns, especially for those travelling from countries which are on the UK government’s red list, meaning that they are required to quarantine in managed hotels on arrival.”
Thousands of students from the Middle East travel to the UK every year for higher studies.
The number of Middle East students seeking higher education in Britain has consistently increased, from 10,700 in 2008-2009 to 15,460 in 2019-2020, according to the Higher Education Statistics Agency, the body for higher education data in England.
The University of Sheffield will be refunding the entire cost, £1,750, of hotel quarantine to new and returning students.
Cardiff University will also reimburse the costs of hotel quarantine for students, and refund the costs of the coronavirus tests required for students arriving in the UK from green/amber list countries.
“We recognise this is a new and additional cost that may not have been anticipated when considering their international studies,” said a Cardiff University representative.
“By offering this financial support we want to remove and help relieve some of the additional financial pressures on our international students.”
The university will also offer concessions for late arrival to support students who may have delays in getting to campus for the start of term.
While fees for British students are capped at £9,250 at UK universities, international undergraduate students pay between £10,000 and £45,000 a year.
The UAE, Bahrain, Egypt, Oman and Qatar, are Middle East nations on the UK’s red list. Students travelling from these countries will be able to avoid quarantine charges if their universities pick up the tab.
Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Lebanon are on the UK’s amber list and students arriving from these countries would have to quarantine for 10 days at home or in the place where they are staying. They would also have take a Covid-19 test on or before the second day and on or after the eighth day.
Experts say the move by universities will help students in the Emirates heading to the UK this year.
Fiona McKenzie, head of the Dubai office of Carfax Education, which helps students to choose universities, said the decision "will reassure students that universities are going to be open this September for in-person teaching".
“It shows they are committed to supporting the students and making it work for them as they transition from their familiar surroundings and enter into an unknown environment.”
The London School of Economics and Political Science is refunding the quarantine costs to only those students who need it.
“LSE has a means-tested in-course support fund available for registered students who face unexpected financial hardship once they have enrolled at the school,” said a representative at The London School of Economics and Political Science.
“Students from red-listed countries who face financial difficulties, as a result of paying for the hotel quarantine arrangements, can apply to this fund during their studies should they need to do so.”
The higher-education institution is advising students to apply to defer the quarantine payment, which is an option offered by the UK government.
Oxford Brookes University also said that it will be reimbursing the total cost of quarantine for new students starting in September. The money will be refunded by means of a tuition fee discount.
University of Glasgow will fund quarantine for students who live in countries on the UK’s red list.