Quarantine hotels were introduced in the UK in February for incoming travellers who had been in or transited certain countries. Those from the ‘red list’ countries must spend 10 days in a government-approved quarantine hotel at the cost of £1,750.

India, the second largest source market for international students after China, was added to the red list on April 23 following an uptick in cases due to a new local variant.

Private providers – and some universities – are now pushing for alternative quarantine arrangements.

University Living founder Saurabh Arora told The PIE News that PBSAs are “definitely willing to quarantine students from red-list countries”.

“Many of our accommodation partners, especially in the UK and Australia, have gone on record and stated that they have the capacity to do so,” he said.

“A few university and PBSA representatives mentioned that they have made it known to the authorities that they are willing to allow international students to quarantine at their managed accommodations”

“In a recent webinar held by us, a few university and PBSA representatives mentioned that they have made it known to the authorities that they are willing to allow international students to quarantine at their managed accommodations, keeping in mind all protocols set by the government.”

For proponents of on-campus or PBSA quarantining, one of the chief concerns is whether quarantine hotel arrangements for red list countries are going to have adequate capacity.

“Just think about India being on the red list. If they are still on the red list come September, you’re potentially talking about 50,000 students,” James Pitman, managing director of development for UK and Europe at Study Group, said in a recent interview with The PIE.

“If it stays as it is and it’s only these quarantine hotels, there just won’t be the capacity. And on top of it, it’s expensive for students.”

A department of health and social care spokesperson told The PIE that “the government has thousands of hotel rooms available to meet any further demand” and “ongoing agreements with a number of hotels moving into the summer” but would not provide exact figures on capacity.

“We closely monitor the data and if we need to increase, decrease or extend hotel capacity, we will do so,” they added.

To date, various universities have elected to cover quarantine costs either fully or in part for students who have been part of intakes in January and May.

The University of Salford will cover up to £750 for eligible international students starting courses this month, while the University of Lincoln has said it will reimburse the entire quarantine cost after enrolment and offer a free transfer service from the hotel to Lincoln.

The University of Bristol also released its teaching plans for the new academic year, in which it informed students that they “will reimburse you for the cost of this hotel stay”.

“We looked at [covering quarantine costs for international students] and we are still looking at that. The issue is… it’s expensive,” said Chris Chang, deputy vice-chancellor (global engagement and student life) at the University of Portsmouth, who says the priority should be on addressing capacity issues.

“Universities have accommodation. We’ve done that through the lockdown. It’s just an enhanced self-isolation.”

However, other sources have said some universities question the feasibility of quarantining on campus due to needing to meet the strict government requirements, the potential cost and distance from airports.

“The last thing I want for the students is to be stuck in some sort of hotel without any facilities”

“We need to ensure that international students feel welcome and have a good student experience. The last thing I want for the students is to be stuck in some sort of hotel without any facilities,” Chang continued.

“You see the horror stories in the papers. We can’t afford to damage the UK education brand.”

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