Travelling to the UK

Flexibility for the 2020 academic year

We are planning for every eventuality given the uncertainties, and we know you will be trying to make your plans too. We very much hope the situation allows as many of you as possible to join us on campus so that you can access as many aspects of the wider student experience as possible. However, we are also extending our welcome period for new students – so that whenever you are able to get to us, you can be sure of a warm Birmingham welcome.

For new and returning students, the options you have for the first semester are:

  • Arrive at the start of the semester as originally planned
  • Start online and arrive on campus at any time during the first semester to suit you
  • Or study the first semester all online.

Whatever you choose you can be reassured that we are planning to support you to begin your studies wherever you are, whenever you can get to us, and whatever happens with the pandemic.

Planning your travel and your arrival

Where you are travelling to the UK for your studies, we are putting in place a range of measures to support you and to help ensure that you arrive safely, so that you can focus on your experience at university and on your course.

We recommend that before you travel you refer to the UK Government Guidelines.  Currently, students arriving in the UK are required to self-isolate for a period of 14 days unless they are travelling from a country which is listed in Coronavirus (COVID-19) travel corridors (for England).

  • It is your previous location, i.e. where you are travelling from, that is of importance when considering if you are required to self-isolate. The rules are not always the same for each country so please ensure you check the list and follow the guidance provided.
  • We will also be offering free airport collections - further details about airport collections are published further down this page.

If you have to self-isolate when you arrive and you are planning on living in University or partner accommodation, you'll have free accommodation for up to 14 days - two weeks before your accommodation contract and Welcome Week is due to start.

Important information for courses starting in September:

In order for you to arrive in the UK and self-isolate before the start of your course we are recommending that your travel plans allow for you to arrive at the University of Birmingham between 5-7 September 2020.

When you are making your online Tier 4 (General) visa application you will be asked the date you plan to travel to the UK. If you are required to self-isolate, you should enter a date that allows for your arrival here between 5-7 September 2020. By doing so, this means that you will arrive and have completed 14 days of self-isolation in time for Welcome Week starting Monday 21 September.

During this period you'll be able to access a range of support and services. From additional language courses to help you perfect your English, through to online wellbeing support and academic preparation skills, as well as some online socials, we're putting in place a programme of activity to make sure that even in self-isolation you're well prepared for your life and studies in the UK and you start to feel at home. We will also provide those who arrive early for self-isolation with a free welcome food hamper for that period.

Booking your travel

We’re delighted to have teamed up with our travel partner, Key Travel, who will be operating an online booking portal especially for Birmingham students to help you arrange your flights. This dedicated service can be used to book your flights from anywhere in the world, and means we can align our free airport collection service from London Heathrow and Birmingham to ensure your smooth transition to our campus. The Key Travel team have 24/7 traveller support services and they are working with global airlines to offer you promotional packages including additional luggage allowance and access to special academic fares.

To access this service please register below so we can set up your account with Key Travel. It will take approximately a full working day to set-up your account and, once this is complete, Key Travel will email you with your log-in and access details.

Register for updates on this service

Do I have to use the Key Travel portal to book my flight?

No, you are welcome to book your flight in any way you prefer. The University is offering the portal with Key Travel to offer additional reassurance to students. The use of a trusted travel agent such as Key Travel gives support and services not always available through other means. We have also worked with Key Travel to secure promotional rates for our students which aim to offer you the best value. 

Who can use this service?

The service is available for all University of Birmingham students and to all confirmed University of Birmingham offer-holders starting their programme of study in September 2020. Students with an offer to start their courses on programmes commencing in January 2021 will also be able to use this service.  

Current students should use their University email address to register for the service.   

If you register for the service as an offer holder we will verify your details against our application system prior to releasing the information to Key Travel. 

What are ‘Academic Fares’?

Academic fares are specialist flight tickets usually only available to university staff through Key Travel. Key Travel has negotiated with some airlines to offer these directly to students to support us in this challenging time. The academic fares are designed to offer a competitive price combined with increased flexibility that enables you to better manage your travel plans and avoid the indirect costs commonly associated with unplanned travel. Usually, these fares are the cheapest flexible fares available; other key benefits include: 

  • A guaranteed fare with a discount vs. the airline’s published fares available to the public
  • Free of charge changes or cancellations to your booking with no fee charged by the airline*
  • Flexible tickets
  • Extra or generous baggage allowances 

Please note the type of fare and benefits varies from airline to airline and from flight to flight. 

*Please note there is a small change/cancellation fee charged by Key Travel to process the change or cancellation. 

How much extra baggage would I be allowed?

Baggage allowance will vary by airline and is often between 23-32kg with fees or fines for exceeding this limit. Key Travel are working with airlines to include an additional allowance of up to 10kg for students at no extra cost within our academic fare packages but please check the terms and conditions of your flight when booking to confirm. 

Please note, upon your arrival to the UK, assistance will not be provided with lifting/carrying your luggage between airports and onto coaches or transferring from coaches to your accommodation in adherence to COVID-19 safety guidance. Any luggage that you bring with you will be your responsibility to move. 

What payment methods do Key Travel accept?

Payments must be made directly in the portal via credit card, Key Travel accept Visa and Mastercard. 

What are the advantages of booking through Key Travel?

  • 24/7 availability of their online tool
  • In the 24 hours prior to your trip, you will have access to Key Travel’s emergency team should there be any disruption to your trip
  • Access to a broad range of flight options including specialist academic fares
  • Weekly Travel updates 

Once I’ve booked my flights how do I arrange the airport collection service?

You can book your place on the University’s free airport collection service for students from Birmingham Airport (BHX) and London Heathrow (LHR). You will be met at the airport by our friendly meet and greet team and will be brought to the University campus on coach. You will need to book your airport collection in advance, and we advise you book as early as possible to guarantee your seat, as places are limited.

I’m travelling with my family; can I book group flights via Key Travel?

In the Key Travel portal you can book for up to four people in one booking.   

Please note when considering family travel that the airport collection service will be for students only and other travellers will need to make their own arrangements.

Will there be any ‘flexibility’ on flights and tickets?

The level of flexibility for your ticket will vary based on the fare you pay: please be sure to read the terms and conditions of your flight carefully.  Changes to flight dates may be permitted for a small fee and cancellations (refunds) may be accepted.  (NB: the terms of the fares are shown in the online tool when you are searching for your flight) 

If your flight is cancelled or changes are made by the airline, Key Travel can support you with this and will notify you of your options should this occur. The emergency team are available 24/7 so they can offer support should changes or emergencies occur while you are travelling. 

Do we have any data on the likely number of flights available via Key Travel throughout China in September?

The CAAC (Civil Aviation Authority of China) has implemented what is called their ‘Five One Policy’. As part of the policy, international airlines are allowed to fly into China no more than once per week. Since the end of July we have seen this ease up slightly with selected airlines being allowed to fly into China twice per week.   

We will post regular updates on this page as further information becomes available.  

Which routes can I book?

Students are welcome to book any route that suits their needs. Most students will arrive at Birmingham Airport (BHX) or London Heathrow (LHR). We advise you to fly to Birmingham Airport where possible.   

We strongly advise that students do not travel to the UK via Ireland. The UK and the Republic of Ireland are part of a Common Travel Area. This can cause problems for non-visa nationals who have not applied for entry clearance before travelling because you will not pass through the correct UK immigration control, meaning you will enter the UK as a tourist and therefore will not have the correct permission to study in the UK. 

How can I prepare for my trip?

The best way to get ready for your trip is to prepare early as much as you can. Be aware of requirements that may be in place with the airline that you are flying with.

As an example, passengers arriving in Dubai from any destination, including passengers connecting in Dubai, must have a negative COVID-19 test certificate to be accepted on the flight. The test must be taken a maximum of 96 hours before departure and needs to be from an accredited medical centre.

Regulations are changing rapidly and, therefore, we advise students to keep up to date on what requirements are being enforced both by airlines and airports. 


Our Airport Collection Service

We will be offering a free airport pick-up service, with daily collections from London Heathrow and Birmingham Airports between Saturday 5 September and Monday 21 September. You’ll be greeted by a member of our Welcome team to ensure that once you land in the UK, we can get you to our campus safely.

Book your airport collection

We'd encourage incoming students to arrive at Birmingham Airport here possible. Birmingham Airport is close to our University campus (just a 30-minute coach transfer away) and after a long journey, our students really value a short transfer. Travel time from London Heathrow to Birmingham is approximately two hours.

The collection service will drop you to selected halls of residence on our main campus in Edgbaston, Birmingham. If you're not staying in University accommodation, we will work with you once you've booked your collection to ensure you know how to get to the right place once you arrive.

If you'd rather make your own way to campus once you arrive in the UK, then we will also be able to recommend providers for you to book yourself. We currently recommend TOA Taxis, who are a trusted supplier of taxis to the University. This is a private, fast and comfortable way to travel once you land in the UK and the taxi will take you directly to your accommodation.

You can be assured that we’ll keep you fully informed about travelling to the UK and to campus, and what plans we have in place for any self-isolation arrangements you may have to make.