UK campuses

Planning a safe return to our campuses - 2020/2021 academic year - Your Questions Answered

As we get ready for our new academic year to start in September, your safety and wellbeing is paramount, we’re working to ensure we can safely re-open our campus buildings in Scotland, Dubai and Malaysia.

With restrictions on social distancing and travel likely to remain in place for some time, we will continue to be guided by local Government advice and build in mechanisms to support both a strong presence on campus and the ongoing need for flexible and remote working and studying. Given our multiple campuses and hugely varied activities, local risk assessments will play an important role in ensuring all arrangements are appropriate to the space and the activity.

As of 3 August, we now have some buildings already open for approved purposes, and our Estates and Safeguarding teams are working incredibly hard to get more buildings ready for use ahead of Semester 1. In the meantime, the Scottish Government advice remains that working from home, where feasible, should be the default position.

Over the next few weeks, we will continue to provide further advice and guidance as it becomes available, including campus-specific and level-specific guidance. Please take a few minutes to read this information carefully and regularly.

Will all campus buildings re-open in September?
No. We expect a phased reopening of buildings which may require some people who are returning to campus to work/study temporarily somewhere other than their normal location.
Will I be allowed onto campus by September?
We are working on the premise that our campuses will be open to some extent by September, with social distancing restrictions still in place. We are currently working out how this may look on each of our 5 campuses, as the UK, Dubai and Malaysia each have their own plans for lifting lockdown restrictions.
This will allow us to hold smaller classes, labs and workshops. Face-to-face teaching will be supported by engaging online learning opportunities to make sure that your academic experience is not negatively affected.
When will access to libraries and study spaces be available to me?
As we expect social distancing measures to be in place for several months, we are considering a range of options for our libraries and learning spaces as part of the wider recovery planning work. Our priority is to ensure that the campus is safe for students and staff and we are continuing to monitor local Government guidance and adapt as a University.
The digital library is available as normal and our experts are able to support you. You continue to have access to a full range of resources, including e-books, databases and journals. Resource lists, subject guides, skills development and online tutorials will also be available to support your study. If you have any questions, our specialist Librarians will be ready to help with one-to-one advice. You can chat with us online, or email.
When will I be able to access labs and research facilities?
As we expect social distancing measures to continue for the foreseeable future, we will need to introduce specific measures to ensure teaching and research requiring access to laboratories, as well as other on-campus research facilities such as workshops and studios, can be undertaken safely. We continue to work through the practicalities of this and are planning for our research facilities to re-open over the coming weeks in the UK. In Dubai, the latest advice is that the campus, including labs and research facilities, is closed for the remainder of the current academic year (end of August).
Offer holders and prospective students
If you currently hold an offer to begin your studies at Heriot-Watt in September 2020 please see the latest offer holder FAQs. - Offer holder FAQs
Will I be able to move back to campus for the beginning of the 2020/21 academic year?
Yes, subject to local Government guidance. Your safety and wellbeing is our top priority and we will ensure appropriate safety measures are implemented in line with advice, which means the arrangements may be subject to change. At this time, we are working towards all tenancies beginning as normal.
Do I need to be on campus for my studies for the 2020/21 academic year?
We are adapting the way in which we deliver our teaching in the UK, Dubai and Malaysia to an approach we are calling Responsive Blended Learning. This will take place by offering a blend of face-to-face teaching in small groups, where social distancing can be maintained, supported by digital delivery and will allow students to begin the academic year on schedule, wherever they may be in the world.
Will I penalised for choosing NOT to return to campus in September, but still continue my studies?
In short, no. Students will not be penalised for being unable to, or choosing not to, return to campus. You will still be able to engage with all of your learning and assessment activities remotely.
What is Responsive Blended Learning (RBL)?
Responsive Blended Learning (RBL) combines engaging, supported online learning with contextually appropriate face-to-face learning opportunities. This approach enables students to proceed with their studies alongside their peers, whatever pandemic-related restrictions are lifted or imposed in in their region. Check out our Learning and Teaching Academy resources for an overview, glossary, and how we are preparing for RBL.
Will my courses be different?
Yes. We are considering a range of options for how we can best deliver our courses in Semester 1. The University is currently planning to offer a blend of face-to-face teaching in small groups, where social distancing can be maintained, supported by digital delivery.

 

Information on Graduate Apprenticeship programmes
In response to the threat of COVID-19 to the delivery of Graduate Apprenticeship programmes, we are endeavouring to move as much of the delivery online as possible so that attendance is not necessary. We will also provide ad hoc extensions to the deadlines for any assessments based on the situation of an apprentice and their apprenticeship programme.
The university has internal processes that mean no student/apprentice should be disadvantaged by a mitigating circumstance. In order to make on-line delivery accessible, your employees will need to be able to access university systems including our Virtual Learning Environment and on-line communication tools including MS Teams, Skype or Zoom, for example. Depending on your company firewall they may not be able to do this from your site, so allowing them to work from home on the day they would normally attend university would help us to support your apprentices during this challenging time.
Our team has made all the necessary arrangements so that we can work remotely. Please use ga@hw.ac.uk for communications so that one of our team can always pick up an correspondence. We will keep our local contact for your employer informed of any operational changes the university makes to ensure continued delivery of Graduate Apprenticeships and address any circumstances that may arise to that your employees are not unnecessarily disadvantaged, within the limits of our control.

To help give our employer partners and GA students easy access to the team, we have set up a Drop-In Clinic at a set time each day (3pm). Businesses can dial in via Teams or Skype and speak to a Business Relationship Manager about any issues etc. The BRMs will be available Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. There’s a dedicated GA student clinic on Wednesday, which will be hosted by our own GAs.

Employers and students can email the team mailbox ga@hw.ac.uk to get dial in details for the clinic.

Tier 4 students

Where can I find the current UKVI Advice?

UK visa advice for people who are already in the UK

UK visa advice for people who are outside the UK

[This was last updated on 25th March 2020]

The University is following this advice and exercising its discretion to support all our Tier 4 students at this time. We will update our FAQs when new UKVI advice is published.

How Can I Contact UKVI With Questions Related to COVID-19?

The Coronavirus Immigration Team contact email address is CIH@homeoffice.gov.uk

Do I still need to record my attendance now that the UK campuses have moved to supported online learning?

Tier 4 attendance recording at Heriot-Watt University is temporarily suspended. Students will not need to complete weekly check-ins using SafeZone or in person at the Student Service Centre or Borders/Orkney Admin Office. The University will communicate to Tier 4 students when Tier 4 attendance and/or engagement recording will resume and what students are required to do.

If I do not need to check in, am I allowed to leave the UK?

As published on the HWU Student Portal, Tier 4 students can leave the UK now, if they are able to do so, without the University withdrawing their Tier 4 sponsorship. Tier 4 students should follow the latest advice provided by emails, on the student portal and the University website. On 24th March 2020, UKVI have confirmed that during COVID-19, universities are allowed to provide online/distance learning to existing Tier 4 students in the UK or who have chosen to return overseas but wish to continue their current studies. The University will communicate with Tier 4 students with regard to returning to on-campus study in the UK when this option becomes available.  

Am I allowed to work full time?

Outside of published vacations or booked annual leave, Tier 4 students should still adhere to restrictions on casual working hours (paid and unpaid work).

When will I be required to record my attendance again?

The University will communicate to Tier 4 students when Tier 4 attendance and/or engagement recording will resume and what students are required to do. Tier 4 students should discuss withdrawal or suspension of study with their school and with a Global Student Advisor before making firm decisions. 

Will the University report me to UKVI if I leave the UK?

The University is currently working within UKVI guidance whilst offering Tier 4 students flexibility to leave the UK during COVID-19. On 24th March 2020, UKVI confirmed that universities are not required to withdraw Tier 4 sponsorship of students who are engaged in online/distance learning (provided by their own university) even if the student has chosen to return overseas. Where a Tier 4 student withdraws from study or suspends their studies, the University would be required to withdraw Tier 4 sponsorship as normal. Tier 4 students should discuss withdrawal or suspension of study with their school and with a Global Student Advisor before making firm decisions.  

Will my visa be cancelled due to COVID-19?

Your visa will not be cancelled due to COVID-19, however if students withdraw from their programmes, take Temporary Suspension of Studies, complete their programmes early, or fail to meet minimum progression requirements, then the University may be required to withdraw Tier 4 sponsorship as per normal UKVI regulations.  

Will my visa be cancelled if I am out of the UK for more than 60 days?

The University is currently working within UKVI guidance whilst offering Tier 4 students flexibility to leave the UK during COVID-19. On 24th March 2020, UKVI confirmed that universities are not required to withdraw Tier 4 sponsorship of students who are in the UK whilst they are engaged in online/distance learning (provided by their own university) and during vacation periods. Where a Tier 4 student withdraws from study or suspends their studies, the University would be required to withdraw Tier 4 sponsorship as normal. Tier 4 students should discuss withdrawal or suspension of study with their school and with a Global Student Advisor before making firm decisions. 

What do I need to do if my visa is going to expire in the near future?

On 24th March 2020, UKVI confirmed that if a Tier 4 student is in the UK and their visa expires between 24 January 2020 and 31 May 2020, their visa will be extended to 31 May 2020 if they cannot leave the UK because of travel restrictions or self-isolation related to coronavirus (COVID-19). They must contact the Coronavirus Immigration Team at CIH@homeoffice.gov.uk  to update their records if their visa is expiring.

They must provide:

  • their full name (include any middle names)
  • date of birth (dd/mm/yyyy)
  • nationality
  • their previous visa reference number
  • why they can’t go back to their home country, for example if the border has closed

UKVI will let them know when their request is received and when their visa has been extended.

They should also contact their school office as normal, and can contact isao@hw.ac.uk to request information and advice about the Tier 4 visa extension application and submission process.

For the most up to date information from UKVI visit - https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-advice-for-uk-visa-applicants-and-temporary-uk-residents

How do I request a CAS for a visa extension?

Unless advised differently, they should contact their school office  to request a CAS, and can contact isao@hw.ac.uk to request information and advice about the Tier 4 visa application and submission process. Tier 4 students should follow the latest advice provided by emails, on the student portal and the University website.

How can I access International Student Advice and visa application checking?
Tier 4 students can contact isao@hw.ac.uk to access advice and guidance. Tier 4 students should continue to check the latest advice provided by emails, on the student portal and the University website.
How can I start the Doctorate Extension Scheme process?

Tier 4 students can contact isao@hw.ac.uk +44 (0)131 451 4015 as normal to access advice and guidance. Tier 4 students should continue to check the latest advice provided by emails, on the student portal and the University website.

If the UK government make changes that affect my visa, how will I know?

The University will communicate with students about any UK government changes that may impact on their visas.

What can I do if I leave the UK and am unable to return when advised to do so, due to travel restrictions?

As the COVID-19 situation develops, the University will communicate with students about how they can return to the UK to resume study and what to do in the event of any travel restrictions impose in the UK or by other governments. Communications received from UKVI on 24 March 2020 have not set a strict deadline for Tier 4 students to return to the UK for study after the COVID-19 situation ends. The University will provide flexibility where possible to support Tier 4 students who are trying to return to the UK for study.

How can I get support to apply for a Short-Term Study visa to return to the UK?

Tier 4 students can contact isao@hw.ac.uk to access advice and guidance. Tier 4 students should follow the latest advice provided by emails, on the student portal and the University website

If I am currently on a work placement, and the placement provider closes their buildings, what am I required to do?

In the first instance, Tier 4 students undertaking work placements should communicate with their placement provider to understand what arrangements are in place for remote working or other alternatives. These students should also communicate with their school office and academic tutors about these arrangements to ensure that the University is aware of the situation, including the location where they will be working. If work placements are likely to be suspended or ended due to COVID-19, Tier 4 students should communicate with their school office and academic tutors and further information and guidance will be provided to them.

What if my PhD viva exam is cancelled and my visa will expire before it can be re-arranged?
If any PhD viva exams are cancelled during COVID-19, the University will direct students to appropriate advice and assistance in managing visa extensions or other appropriate actions to enable students to complete their programmes.
How do I access the latest information and advice from the University about changes related to COVID-19?

The University will provide frequent updates to students and staff about changes related to COVID-19. This information will be provided on the student portal, the University website and by email.

What will happen if I need to extend my Tier 4 visa because of COVID-19 and I may breach my Tier 4 study cap?

Where any Tier 4 student is genuinely concerned that the COVID-19 situation is likely to create problems relating to the Tier 4 study cap, they can contact isao@hw.ac.uk  to access advice and guidance.

Prospective Tier 4 students

What if I have received a Tier 4 visa and am due to travel into the UK soon, but am worried about the COVID-19 situation or my travel has been cancelled or delayed?
On 24th March 2020, UKVI confirmed that the university is not automatically required to withdraw Tier 4 sponsorship of new overseas students who have been issued a Tier 4 visa but have been unable to travel to the UK. Where available, these students are permitted to undertake supported online / distance learning. If a new overseas student is considering deferring, suspending or withdrawing from their study they should discuss this with their school office and should contact isao@hw.ac.uk for further guidance. Deferring, suspending or withdrawing from study may lead to the withdrawal of Tier 4 sponsorship.
What guidance does Home Office have for those who have a valid visa but haven’t travelled to the UK yet?
Applicants who hold a valid visa should check initially with their own government websites to ensure that they are up to date on latest travel restrictions from their current locations. In addition, applicants should check the Gov.UK website which is updated regularly.
How can I contact visa application centres outside the UK?
For up to date advice on services in different countries, people should look at the websites of UKVI's commercial partners:
  •  Europe, Africa and parts of the Middle East visit: uk.tlscontact.com
  •  All other countries visit: vfsglobal.co.uk
What will happen if I have already made a visa appointment outside the UK, how will I know if my appointment will go ahead?
Where visa applicants have an appointment and the VAC is now closed, commercial partners are contacting customers to advise them the appointment is not going ahead
What will happen if my passport is currently held at a visa application centre outside the UK?
If visa customers have paid for courier return, UKVI's commercial partners are sending passports back (where courier routes remain open to allow them to do so). If applicants are concerned about their passport, customers can contact CIH@homeoffice.gov.uk for advice.
If an individual’s passport is currently held in a VAC but they have not previously arranged for it to be returned by courier, please contact either TLS contact or VFS global directly.
How can I find out about the availability of IELTS tests near me (outside the UK)?
For the latest information, please visit https://www.ielts.org/news/2020/covid19-information-for-our-global-test-taker-community or applicants can contact their test centre directly by email.
If I have applied for a visa from overseas but would now like to withdraw my application, how do I do this?
Before withdrawing their visa application, students should contact their schools to discuss the implications for their studies, they can also contact isao@hw.ac.uk for further visa advice.
Visa applicants can contact UKVI directly to discuss the withdrawal of their application and are asked to visit our gov.uk web pages at https://www.gov.uk/contact-ukvi-inside-outside-uk for further details.
They may also contact the Visa Application Centre (VAC) via UKVI's Commercial Partner websites to ask for their application to be withdrawn. In countries where significant movement restrictions are in place, some of VACs are closed which may make it difficult for them to return documents to them.
Can I receive a refund of my advance fee instalment if I cannot travel to campus or if there is a delay to the start of the academic year?
You are encouraged to continue to pay advance instalments for tuition fees and advance rent payments for the planned start of the new academic year in September.
Should there be any delay to the start of the academic year, or if you are unable to travel to campus because of visa or transport restrictions, you will be given the options of:
  • Starting your programme of study online, where possible, before transferring to on-campus study at an appropriate stage
  • Studying at an alternative campus, with the option to transfer to your campus of choice after the first semester or first year, where applicable
  • Deferring enrolment to a later date
  • Receiving a full refund of your advance instalment