Dear All,

We know that many of you will be concerned about the impact of the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) outbreak – wherever you are in the world. You will continue to receive updates on the situation in the UK and how we are responding to that in Birmingham. You will be aware that all face-to-face teaching will cease and be replaced by online alternatives for teaching and learning with effect from Monday 23rd March.

Many of our study abroad and exchange students have already decided to return to the UK or been forced to make that decision by the circumstances in country. Some of our students are continuing to engage with their host institutions through distance learning and others are still waiting to see if the situation improves before making a final decision.

Given where we are in the academic year, about to break for Easter, and with the University preparing for a period of restricted opening, meaning that a large number of staff will be working from home, we are seeking to support and implement solutions for all students to ensure that they can complete their year abroad and progress next year.

There are three options for all students to consider and we are asking everyone to confirm to us which option you have settled on:

  1. Stay where you are – if you are engaged. 

    If you feel that the situation in your host country is managed and you would prefer to stay abroad then we are content that you should stay where you are if you are actively engaged in a programme of study or placement activity. You should follow the advice of your host institution and local instructions about how to stay safe and well. This option also includes students who are registered with a partner in another country and are actively studying via distance learning.

  2. Return to the UK - or your home country. 

    We are strongly recommending that students in a host country where there are active “quarantine measures” including: Belgium, Germany, Italy, Spain, China and South Korea should immediately return to their home country.

    If you are still waiting for your host institution to confirm that they will resume teaching at some point in the future – you can no longer “wait and see”. At this point in the academic year you must be actively engaged in your studies and/or placement. If not, you should immediately return to your home country.

    If you are feeling unsafe in your host country and would prefer to be at home during this exceptional period of disruption then you can and should return home.

    Students who return home under option 2 will be supported to complete their “year abroad” and enabled to progress. Your School/Department will arrange alternative assessments for you to complete your ‘year abroad’ credits and your academic progress will not be disadvantaged.

  3. A Leave of Absence. 

    Students who do not wish to curtail their year abroad experience may choose to take a (retrospective) leave of absence and repeat the second semester in 2021. This would effectively mean a break in study of a year. 

We are asking ALL STUDENTS to confirm which option they will follow for the remainder of this academic year. All Students must identify and choose an option by Friday 27 March 2020. You should confirm your option to the Study Abroad Team

If you decide to return home earlier than planned (options 2 or 3) but are concerned about the possible financial implications, please read the attached FAQ from our Insurance office. Should our insurers not cover some of the costs (and providing you have registered for the free University Insurance for your year abroad), the University is committed to supporting students with reasonable additional costs that may arise from the exceptional changes of circumstances, travel and accommodation restrictions related to COVID-19.

If you would like to know more, some of the best advice is available from the World Health Organisation. The University has also published advice and a range of Frequently Asked Questions.

You should make yourselves aware of the health and medical support available to you in country, and from your host institution. If you have any symptoms that are a cause for concern then you should immediately seek medical attention – as per the advice in your location. Coronavirus symptoms are similar to those of a common cold, including fever, dry cough, sore throat, problems breathing, including shortness of breath, headache and body aches.

We do understand that students may be worried about the potential impact of travel restrictions, health concerns and interruptions to study. This is a difficult situation, much of which is outside of all of our control. We are working hard to offer the best and most timely advice in a rapidly changing situation.

If you would like to contact us directly for more information about your circumstances - then please contact the Study Abroad and Exchange.

If you are concerned for your own health and wellbeing then you can always get in touch with the University of Birmingham through your School Wellbeing Officers.

Please stay safe and well, and remember to get in contact with us if you need any personal advice, support or further information.

Best Wishes,

Study Abroad and Exchange Team

For Information on the impact Covid-19 has had on your travel insurance, please read the Travel Insurance Update 


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