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?
Will I be allowed onto campus by September?
When will access to libraries and study spaces be available to me?
When will I be able to access labs and research facilities?
Offer holders and prospective students
Will I be able to move back to campus for the beginning of the 2020/21 academic year?
Do I need to be on campus for my studies for the 2020/21 academic year?
Will I penalised for choosing NOT to return to campus in September, but still continue my studies?
What is Responsive Blended Learning (RBL)?
Will my courses be different?
Information on Graduate Apprenticeship programmes
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 email@example.com to get dial in details for the clinic.
Tier 4 students
Where can I find the current UKVI Advice?
[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)
- 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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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 email@example.com 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?
How can I start the Doctorate Extension Scheme process?
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?
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?
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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?
What guidance does Home Office have for those who have a valid visa but haven’t travelled to the UK yet?
How can I contact visa application centres outside the UK?
- 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?
What will happen if my passport is currently held at a visa application centre outside the UK?
How can I find out about the availability of IELTS tests near me (outside the UK)?
If I have applied for a visa from overseas but would now like to withdraw my application, how do I do this?
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?
- 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