Moving India to amber list may ease UK quarantine capacity fears – Times Higher Education (THE)

Higher education leaders have welcomed the removal of India from the “red list” of the UK’s Covid-related travel restrictions, with the move potentially going a long way to ease concerns over hotel quarantine capacity for international students.
The Department for Transport said India – a key overseas student market for the UK – would move to the “amber list” from 8 August. While arrivals from India will still have to quarantine for 10 days on arrival, they will be able to do this in the place they will be staying rather than in a government-appointed hotel.
The move could make the UK a more attractive destination for Indian students, not least because of the cost of hotel quarantine, which has been increased to £2,285 per traveller.
And it could also help to allay fears about a shortage of hotel quarantine rooms when international students are scheduled to arrive in the UK this autumn. Previously about 100,000 students from red-list countries had been expected to fly in, much higher than the reported bed capacity – but Indian learners will have represented a not-insignificant proportion of the total.
Bahrain, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates are moving from the red to the amber list alongside India, while Georgia and Mexico are being added to the red list because of concerns over Covid-19 cases and the possibility of high-risk coronavirus variants being spread.
Stephanie Harris, head of international engagement (non-EU) at Universities UK International, said students had “shown a great amount of patience and resilience in sticking with their plans to study overseas, and we look forward to welcoming them, and welcoming them back, to our campuses and university communities”.
“We know India being moved from the red to the amber list for arrivals into England and Scotland will be a significant and welcome move for those Indian students due to travel to the UK soon,” Dr Harris said.
“Those students should stay in touch with their university and be aware of the latest procedure for amber list arrivals to ensure a smooth arrival.”
Jonah Duffin, director of external relations at student recruitment firm IDP Connect, said the change in quarantine rules was “welcome news for the tens of thousands of Indian students who come to the UK every year”.
“With UK government guidance already issued, there is time for the sector to respond safely, putting in place the appropriate arrangements for quarantine on campus, itself a major undertaking in a short window,” he said.
A global survey of more than 4,000 international students published by IDP earlier this month found that 88 per cent of respondents were willing to quarantine on arrival in their destination, but only 31 per cent were prepared to pay the full costs. Forty per cent of respondents said designated university student halls would be their preferred quarantine location, compared with 29 per cent who preferred a government-designated hotel.
Anne Marie Graham, chief executive of the UK Council for International Student Affairs, said that the UK government decision would reduce the costs of quarantining for Indian students.
“This is welcome news for students and their families, and will inevitably reduce the pressure on the capacity of managed quarantine facilities at the start of the academic year,” she said.
Meanwhile, concern has been raised over the impact of the increase in quarantine costs on students from red-list countries, which include Bangladesh, Indonesia and Pakistan.
Matt Crilly, president of NUS Scotland, said the rise “constitutes a shameful attack on international students, many of whom simply cannot afford a £2,285 premium to access their education”.
“Students rightly feel let down and betrayed after already paying exorbitant fees and sky-high costs for accommodation, in addition to visa costs and healthcare charges,” Mr Crilly said. “I am deeply concerned that this move will force many students to drop out of their studies. No student should be priced out of education as a result of quarantine charges.”
Mr Crilly said the Scottish government should scrap quarantine charges for people who were travelling for “essential education purposes”.
Negotiations have been continuing over whether government-ordered quarantine for red-list arrivals could be completed within university accommodation.
chris.havergal@timeshighereducation.com
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