COVID-19 Student FAQs

Our coronavirus guidance for current students covers changes to University life, including remote learning, as well as focused information for international students.

University Life

Is the University open?

Our university remains operational and continues to be the positive and supportive family that it always has been.

In line with recent government advice, University staff are now temporarily working from home and are continuing to provide our services remotely. For the safety of both students and staff, most University buildings including teaching spaces, libraries and catering outlets are temporarily closed.

As government guidance permits, some buildings and facilities are beginning to reopen. At our Buckingham campus, the ground floor of the Vinson Building is now available to use as a social study space and the University Bookshop is also open. The Hunter Street Library has partially reopened since 6 July. Please follow the social distancing and building guidelines when visiting any campus facilities.

Student accommodation also remains open to those who have stayed with us during the pandemic. 

Outlets in Buckingham providing food and services for the local community are now open including non essential retail.

The entire higher education sector is considering the health, safety and other measures which will need to be in place so that the full breadth of university activities can begin at the appropriate time. As lockdown restrictions are gradually easing, we are discussing the phased return of activities and spending time preparing and considering any adaptations that may be needed to University buildings. We are providing sanitisation stations with hand gel and antibacterial wipes: all necessary precautions are being taken to help reduce any contact risks. We have installed screens at all face-to-face service points and are closely monitoring the cleanliness of social study spaces. Our cleaning teams are regularly attending to student accommodation and University buildings throughout the week and deep cleaning spaces to ensure a hygienic environment.

 

How does online teaching and learning work?

Since the 6 April 2020, all of our teaching and learning has moved wholly online. This is a temporary measure until such time as the pandemic abates.

Tutorials, lectures and assessments are mainly being delivered through Microsoft Teams and Moodle, your School will have notified you should this not be the case. You will also need to use Microsoft Office, you can access this for free via the Office 365 portal. You will not miss out on any course content and we are doing all we can to ensure that teaching and learning continues successfully and effectively.

If different time zones of students allow, some lectures will be delivered live. For others, lectures will be recorded with audio or video and posted, as usual, on to Moodle, so that you can go over them in your own time. Tutorials will be conducted remotely, typically using Microsoft Teams. Your tutors and lecturers are available as usual during specified office hours, with the only difference that this will be remotely, using Microsoft Teams.

Should you need any technical help, the IT Helpdesk team is still available Monday-Friday, 9am – 5pm and contactable via email (helpdesk@buckingham.ac.uk) and online (https://help.buckingham.ac.uk/sso).

 

What resources are available?

The library team is still working hard to support you and can be reached at library@buckingham.ac.uk. You can also use the Virtual Librarian service at https://buckslibrary.libanswers.com/. The ground floor is open for book loans and to use as a study space.

The majority of core textbooks are available as e-books. Please ask the library team if you have any questions on this.

Remember to also take advantage of the online databases and ebooks available to you such as JSTOR and Project Muse.

You can find help sheets for access on the library Moodle pages.

 

Assessment

Your modules will be delivered as planned in the Summer Term; and teaching and learning will continue to be delivered wholly online. In some instances, we have adapted the way in which your modules are assessed to reflect online teaching and learning.

We can also announce that any planned December examinations (for modules taught in the Summer term) will be held online. There may be some exceptions to this where regulating bodies require assessment to be delayed or modified to allow for in-person examinations to be held; and your School of Study will communicate this to you if this is the case.

The detail for changes to Summer Term module assessments (in all Schools except Medicine and Education) are published here.These changes have been approved by the Chairs of School Learning and Teaching Committees; Deans of Schools and the Pro Vice-Chancellor (Academic). Please familiarise yourself with the modules you are taking next term. Your module directors will be able to answer any queries you might have.

The detail for any changes to Autumn module assessments will be published by the 2nd September 2020.

 

 

When will on-campus classes resume?

We can confirm that teaching, learning and exams will continue online only throughout the summer term.

The situation is rapidly changing in the UK and around the world. We are working with government and public health bodies to ensure we are developing our plans, keeping the safety and wellbeing of staff and students the top priority. This work is drawing upon significant expertise that already exists within universities and will include the views of staff and student representatives.

It is expected that at the beginning of the Autumn Term tutorials will be run both online and within socially-distanced settings. Lectures will be delivered online and recorded so you can watch them again in your own time. Personal tutors will continue to be available to you and offer an ‘open-door policy’ so that you can access any extra help or support you may need, when you need it – whether that’s through Microsoft Teams or face-to-face.

We will stay in close contact with all students and will alert you when we are allowed to recommence normal classes on campus. You can also check this page for regular updates.

 

Will my tuition fees be discounted?

As the University is still teaching courses, providing the familiar Buckingham student support – operating our small-group tutorials (albeit online for now), our academic ‘open-door’ approach via Teams, personal tutor sessions, and 1:1 support with our Students’ First team – as well as awarding qualifications to successful candidates, there will be no changes to (or refunds of) tuition fees. This is in line with the government advice which has stated that students ordinarily should not expect any fee refund if they are receiving adequate online learning and support. You can read the UK Government’s FAQs on this question here.

 

Can I spend time with other people while I’m at university?

We expect all students to follow the latest official advice on social distancing and other measures that have been put in place by the government. The rules cover things like the maximum number of other people you are allowed to meet at one time and under what conditions. However, the rules differ slightly between each of the 4 UK nations and it’s important for you to follow the rules that apply in the nation you’re staying in right now.

Generally, you should stay at home as much as possible and limit contact with other people. If you do meet other people, keep your distance (2 metres apart where possible).

If you have remained on campus or within England you should follow the specific area guidance. Please continue to stay alert and limit your contact with others. Staying at home is the easiest way to do this.

However, from Saturday 4 July, you can meet in groups of two households in any location – public or private as long as you socially distance. You are able to spend time outdoors and meet in groups of up to six. Restaurants, pubs, cinemas and other attractions will also be allowed to open. If you would like to and can safely and legally do so, please take this time to responsibly support local Buckingham establishments. You should stay alert and always practise social distancing with people from outside of your household keeping 2 metres apart.

 

Am I required to wear a face covering?

The university is following the government’s advice on face coverings.

The wearing of face coverings is not compulsory but we respect everyone’s personal choice. If you wish to wear a facial covering, you are welcome to do this. The University has a limited supply of face masks available to staff and students.

Those who choose to wear a face covering are still expected to follow the government advice on social distancing, self-isolation and shielding.

Please note that you are expected to self-isolate if you or anyone in your household has symptoms. You are also expected to self-isolate if you are told by the NHS Test and Trace service that you’ve been in contact with a person who has coronavirus (COVID-19).

 

How can I help avoid a ‘local lockdown’?

To help reduce the risk of a local lockdown it’s absolutely essential that we all continue to do the following:

  • Follow social distancing when outside the house; leave space between you and others and avoid physical contact with people outside your household.
  • Wear a face covering such as a scarf or mask over your mouth and nose in places they’re required. We must do this on public transport as well as in hospitals and doctors surgeries.
  • Consider wearing a face covering in other public places too such as shops and supermarkets. By doing this you are protecting others.
  • Wash your hands regularly for 20 seconds with soap and water. Stay at home and isolate if you have symptoms of the virus (a new continuous cough, high fever or a loss of taste or smell).
  • Stay at home and isolate if you have been in contact with someone who has symptoms of the virus.
  • Travel by walking or cycling whenever you can. If this isn’t possible, then use your own car and don’t give anyone a lift who isn’t from your household.
Student Accommodation

General information

Students who have not yet returned to University accommodation since the vacation should now remain where they are. Students who have remained in accommodation should now stay there and not attempt to travel.

The University’s student accommodation does remain open. However, in line with Government advice, you should only now leave your residence for very limited purposes. Details can be found online at: Coronavirus outbreak FAQs: what you can and can’t do

As teaching has now moved online, students are not obliged to return to University accommodation in order to continue their studies.

If you have not yet returned to campus but feel there is a welfare-related need why you need to return to the campus, you should contact the Students First department in advance to discuss this. Please email students.first@buckingham.ac.uk or phone 01280 820200.

Wherever you are currently staying, you must all continue to follow the government’s advice on social distancing. As always, the Students’ Union and Students First are available to help and support you throughout this time if you are having trouble coping.

 

Is the accommodation being cleaned?

Cleaning teams attend accommodation every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, however please also continue to be considerate of others and clean up after yourselves. Staff will be wearing protective equipment and we ask you to please practice social distancing should you see one of the team.

 

I was living in University accommodation but I’ve gone home. Can I get a refund?

For students living in University accommodation, the University will honour the terms of the occupational licence agreements and student accommodation will remain open for those students who are unable to travel home. We understand that many students have taken the decision to leave their University accommodation during the period of online study and the University is amenable to them choosing to do so.

We have confirmed that the Student Loan Company will continue to pay maintenance loans for the spring 2020 term to UK undergraduate students. Given these exceptional circumstances, for those students who have vacated their accommodation prior to the start of the spring term (6 April) or term 2 for Medical students (4 May), they will not be liable for their accommodation fees for that term. Students who have vacated their accommodation should ensure that they get in touch with the Accommodation office (accommodation@buckingham.ac.uk) who will require written confirmation and the return of keys wherever possible to enable the refund request to be considered.

 

I live in privately rented accommodation. What if I want to go home? Can I get a refund?

Please speak to your landlord or letting agency who should be able to help answer any questions you may have about your tenancy. Please be mindful that government guidelines state that renters should, where possible, delay moving while measures are in place to fight coronavirus.

You can also visit the Shelter website for some general guidance on leaving your tenancy early.

International students

Will I be required to quarantine when I return?

For international students, before making any arrangements to travel please ensure you have visited the government website for the latest details on entering the UK. You may be required to self-isolate for 14 days when you arrive back in the UK, if this is the case you will be required to stay within your residence except in limited situations. The situation is rapidly changing so it is possible that by the start of term this will not be required, but please continue to check the government website for details.

Should you need to self-isolate and have chosen to live in a University owned property from the start of the Autumn Term, you will be provided with a designated room within student accommodation. It is likely that this room will be based on your personal choices and will be the one you will live in throughout the duration of your time in accommodation. There is however, a small chance you may be required to change room after your self-isolation period. The estates team will be on-hand to help you move into your room when you arrive and will assist with any relocation if needed.

You do have the option to arrive early, and are welcome to travel to campus from the 7 September in order to ensure you have completed your self-isolation period before term begins on the 28 September. If you decide to do this there will be a charge of £100 per week for your room up until the start of term. Please contact accommodation to arrange this: accommodation@buckingham.ac.uk.

If you currently have an ongoing contract with the accommodation team please return to your room for your self-isolation period, there will be no extra charge.

Whilst in self-isolation, we will make sure you are supported with any food or medication deliveries you need. This support will also be provided to those of you living in privately owned accommodation. 

Your student societies and clubs are planning to run a variety of online events as well as some socially distanced activities. Follow the SU Instagram, and Facebook pages to find out more. Students First will continue to provide personalised support and can help you with university life, mental fitness and wellbeing.

 

What if I’ve left the UK?

International students who have returned home can continue to learn remotely. As teaching has now moved online, students are not obliged to return to the University now in order to continue their studies. We do expect all current students to continue to engage with learning and assessments provided online. The University will continue to sponsor your Tier 4 visa during this period.

 

Can I continue to work in the UK?

There are no changes to your work (employment) permissions under the Tier 4 visa regulations. You’ll continue to be restricted to work 20 hours per week during term time, as you will be expected to be working on your studies. Term times remain the same at this time.

 

Is my learning monitored (as required under Tier 4)?

Your engagement via Moodle will be monitored along with online submission of work and assessments. If virtual meetings take place, such as Teams meetings or telephone interactions with project tutors/supervisors, these will also be used as evidence of engagement.

Tier 4 students are not normally permitted to undertake distance learning courses. However, due to the current exceptional circumstances, the Home Office does not consider it a breach of sponsor duties to offer distance learning to existing Tier 4 students in the UK or who have chosen to return overseas but wish to continue their current studies. Sponsors do not need to withdraw sponsorship in these circumstances.

 

What if I want to defer my studies or withdraw from my course?

If you have decided to defer your studies, the normal processes apply. Please contact your school administrator and complete the appropriate paperwork.

If you have decided not to continue with your current course, please contact your school administrator. The University is then required to inform the Home Office and withdraw sponsorship for your Tier 4 visa. The University will send you a confirmation email when this has been done and advise you on how long you have to leave the UK.

 

Can I still access healthcare?

The Immigration Health Surcharge paid as part of a Tier 4 visa application gives you access to the UK healthcare system in the same way as a British Citizen. If you have a visa for less than 6 months, you won’t have paid the Immigration Health Surcharge and will need to ensure you have medical insurance to cover any non-emergency care.

If you need hospital treatment in the UK, the NHS have published useful information about what to expect.

 

What if my visa is due to expire soon?

If your visa has expired, or expires between 24 January and 31 May 2020, and you can’t return home because of travel restrictions, the Home Office will extend it for you up to 31 May 2020. You don’t need to make an application or pay a fee, but you must contact the Coronavirus Immigration Help Centre. It is recommended that you email the help centre at CIH@homeoffice.gov.uk, rather than call, so you have a record of your request. You should keep a copy of all correspondence with the Home Office.

If you have any further questions, please contact the Visa office at the University: tier4@buckingham.ac.uk

Can I switch to a long-term UK visa?

Students who cannot leave the UK due to travel restrictions or self-isolation reasons, and who wish to stay in the UK in the long-term, would ordinarily need to apply for a visa from their home country. While you would usually be required to return to your country of residence to apply for a visa in a different category, you can now apply from the UK to switch.

Please see more information on gov.uk.

I am due to go on/currently on exchange, what should I do?

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) is advising British nationals against all non-essential international travel for an initial period of 30 days.

All UK students and staff currently studying on exchanges or working temporarily overseas are strongly advised to return to the UK now when and while commercial routes are still available. Please keep up to date with travel advice. Please also contact your travel insurance provider: the Association of British Insurers says most providers will look to extend single trip cover for up to 60 days if you are making every effort to return home.

The latest guidance on social distancing also recommends avoiding all non-essential use of public transport, where possible so we are currently asking all students not to travel overseas for study reasons.

More on the FCO’s latest advice.

 

What about my Tier 4 visa application?

Once you have accepted our offer and met all the conditions, you can start the process of applying for your Tier 4 study visa. This will help to ensure that you’re ready to travel and start your studies with us in person as soon as you can. However, if you’re unable to travel to the UK in September due to Covid-19, you will be able to enrol and start studying with us online from your home. We appreciate that there remains a lot of uncertainty around travel at the moment due to the pandemic. We recommend that you keep an eye on the UK Government’s official Covid-19 advice for visa applicants, which is being updated on an ongoing basis.  You may also find our own regularly updated Covid-19 Applicant FAQ’s page useful, along with this page outlining our 8 Promises to You as a September starter.

If you’re an International student already in the UK, you will need to have applied for your visa before you can enrol for your course – even if you will be starting your studies online initially.