Universities have offered to "hotel quarantine" students from "red listed" India amid concerns the Government will not be able to cope with an influx of up to 50,000 from the country.
The universities say they have the experience and accommodation, including even their own hotels, that would enable them to quarantine the Indian students and potentially cover their costs to avoid them facing hardship or being forced to give up hard-won places.
Universities UK International (UUKI) has been in talks with the Government over the plan and an agreement with the Scottish Government for international students attending Scottish students is understood to be on the brink of being signed.
The move has emerged just days after the Government placed India on its red list for travel, which requires any arrival including students to quarantine for 11 days in Government-approved hotels at a cost of up to £1,750 per person.
The ban on foreign travel from India was imposed after a double mutant variant emerged amid a spike in coronavirus cases that has claimed thousands of lives.
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There are about 55,000 Indian students currently studying at UK universities, with each providing a major source of income of between £10,000 and £60,000 a year to the UK institutions through fees on top of any wider benefits to the UK economy. Most are postgraduates.
About a quarter - some 14,000 - are currently stranded in India studying remotely, but under Boris Johnson’s roadmap they should be allowed to return to their universities from the scheduled date of May 17.
Some 50,000 new Indian students are expecting to fly to the UK in the Autumn which could seriously stretch the Government’s hotel quarantine scheme.
This is on top of up to 500 to 700 other British citizens or residents returning from India after the ban deadline of 4am on Friday morning, as well as up to 1,000 more a day arriving from other red list countries.
Vivienne Stern, director of UUKI, said some universities such as Heriot Watt and Birmingham had their own hotel accommodation typically used for parents or visitors, while the sector had already established protocols for quarantining overseas students.
"Universities are already managing self-isolation requirements for visitors. Given the Government may have a difficulty providing capacity, they should look at where universities have accommodation that could meet the standard of the hotel quarantine system," she told The Telegraph.
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