Coronavirus – general information and guidance for members

Novel coronavirus (COVID-19) is a new strain of coronavirus. The outbreak has been labeled a pandemic by the World Health Organisation.

The NHS website has more information about how coronavirus is spread and answers common questions about the virus. On Monday 23 March, the government imposed new restrictions, which are outlined below.

This page has been set up to bring together the different pieces of advice available for institutions. Links are included where possible to enable further reading. The Office for Students have also produced some general guidance, which we advise you also refer to.

This page contains:

  1. General advice for institutions and GuildHE activity
  2. UPDATED Office for Students position
  3. Coronavirus (COVID-19): what you need to do
  4. Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance on isolation for residential educational settings
  5. Working group on coronavirus
  6. Advice to those with symptoms 
  7. Self-Isolation Guidance  
  8. Travel guidance for the education sector
  9. Information on travel insurance implications
  10. Press Enquiries
  11. Immigration guidance
  12. Coronavirus and mental health
  13. Covid 19 Financial Support
  14. Useful contacts

1. General advice for institutions and GuildHE activityGo to the top

This is clearly an ongoing and evolving situation that is obviously of great concern to many in the sector. It is recommended that you take note of the different areas of guidance covered below and take urgent steps to raise awareness amongst staff and students. It is also recommended that you consult our checklist and ensure that your institution’s current response mechanisms are functional. 

GuildHE is meeting regularly with colleagues from different government departments and are part of the sector stakeholder group. As such, we will be updating this page frequently and sending out regular updates.

2. UPDATED Office for Students positionGo to the top

The OfS’s guidance includes information on the reduced regulatory burden due to the current situation.

3. Coronavirus (COVID-19): what you need to doGo to the top

Stay at home

  • Only go outside for food, health reasons or work (but only if you cannot work from home)
  • Stay 2 metres (6ft) away from other people
  • Wash your hands as soon as you get home

You can spread the virus even if you don’t have symptoms.

4. Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance on isolation for residential educational settingsGo to the top

For students with symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) in halls of residence:

Students in halls of residence who develop symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) should self-isolate in their current accommodation for 7 days, unless it is not possible to do so. Wherever possible, universities or colleges should offer their support to facilitate this. Students should discuss this with their university or college, and also with the manager of their halls if they are privately owned.

Staying at home for a prolonged period can be difficult, frustrating and lonely for some people. It can be particularly challenging if there is limited space or no access to a garden.

It is important to take care of mental as well as physical health and seek support if needed. Students can keep in touch with family and friends over the phone and on social media. There are also sources of support and information that can help, such as Every Mind Matters for adults, and Young Minds for young people.

Students should only return home if they are able to do so without using public transport. On returning home, the household should begin a period of whole household isolation for 14 days following PHE guidance.

Anyone who can return home should gain agreement from their university or college before doing this. Students living in privately owned halls should contact the manager of their accommodation to advise them of their plans.

More information can be found here.

5. Working group on coronavirusGo to the top

GuildHE is actively engaged with the sector working-group on coronavirus. Sector bodies have now agreed with DfE and other departments that the increasing number of issues we need to address mean it makes sense to split our work on coronavirus into 8 work-streams: 

  • International students (recruitment and current student issues)
  • Regulations and standards
  • UK admissions
  • Financial sustainability
  • Student and staff welfare
  • Communications, information, stakeholder management and enquiries
  • Research
  • Engaging with the community

GuildHE is represented on all the work-streams.

6. Advice to those with symptoms Go to the top

Stay at home for 7 days if you have either:

  • a high temperature
  • a new continuous cough

This will help to protect others while you are infectious.

Do not go to a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital, unless necessary.

You do not need to contact NHS 111 to tell them you’re staying at home.
People who are self-isolating with mild symptoms will not be tested.

7. Self-Isolation Guidance Go to the top

The NHS has also produced guidance on self-isolation:  

8. Travel guidance for the education sectorGo to the top

This guidance is for students and staff in the education sector planning to travel in the UK or overseas, and for those who are already overseas.

Section 1 of the guidance relates to under 18s and Section 2 covers matter relating to over 18s and specifically covers higher education, including Erasmus+.

9. Information on travel insurance implicationsGo to the top

The Association of British Insurers (ABI) has produced information on travel insurance implications following the COVID-19 outbreak. 

10. Press enquiriesGo to the top

If any of your academics have particular relevant expertise and are interested in engaging with the press, please get in touch with

11. Immigration guidanceGo to the top

Michelle Donelan in her letter confirmed that on Tuesday 24 March, the Home Office updated their visa guidance to provide greater certainty for international higher education students and staff in the UK currently unable to return home due to COVID-19. This covers three main issues: visa extensions, in-country visa switching and distance learning.

a) Visa extensions

No individual who is in the UK legally, but whose visa is due to expire, or has already expired, and who cannot leave because of travel restrictions related to COVID-19, will be regarded as an overstayer, or suffer any detriment in the future. Anyone whose leave expired after the 24 January and who cannot leave the country because of travel restrictions or self-isolation will have their visas extended to 31 May 2020. Individuals must contact the Coronavirus Immigration Team email ( to advise of their situation.

Home Office’s Coronavirus Immigration Helpline remains open: 0800 678 1767 (open Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm – calls are free of charge if made from within the UK).

b) In-country visa switching

Individuals (students or staff) who cannot leave the UK due to travel restrictions or self-isolation and wish to stay in the UK in the long-term would ordinarily need to apply for a visa from their home country. Where individuals would normally be required to return to their country of residence to apply for a visa in a different category, they’ll now be able to apply from the UK to switch.

c) Distance learning

Tier 4 students are not normally permitted to undertake distance learning courses. However, due to the current exceptional circumstances, the Home Office will 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. New international students who have been issued a Tier 4 visa but have been unable to
travel to the UK are permitted to undertake distance learning and sponsorship does not need to be withdrawn.New international students who have not yet applied for a visa but wish to commence a course by distance learning do not need to travel to the UK to do so and therefore do not require sponsorship under Tier 4.

12. Coronavirus and mental healthGo to the top

During this time where many of us are limiting social contact, it is important to preserve our wellbeing and mental health. There is useful guidance to assist with best practice for working from home and staying connected. Please continue to use the relevant Jiscmail lists and channels of communication if there are any questions or comments that may be widely useful to the network. If you would like GuildHE to facilitate another virtual HR meeting ahead of the one planned in June then please email:
Some useful links:

1) Mind

2) Leapers

13. Covid 19 Financial Support Go to the top

During and after the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, our aim is for Higher Education (HE) providers to continue to:

  • deliver HE provision
  • support the needs of students, both on and off campus

We will work with HE providers to help them access the range of measures on offer to:

  • support financial viability and sustainability
  • safeguard jobs (including those staff on casual, hourly paid or fixed-term contracts)

We have confirmed that the Student Loans Company is planning to make Term 3 tuition fee payments as scheduled.

We expect that in most circumstances, HE providers will be able to continue paying their staff as usual because HE delivery has largely moved online, and staff are maintaining key services, including those for students remaining on campus.

14. Useful Contacts:Go to the top

Coronavirus Immigration Helpline

Telephone: 0800 678 1767 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm)


Department for Education Helpline

The helpline is open between 0800 and 1800 Monday to Friday and weekends between 1000 and 1600.

GuildHE lead