Since Covid-19 hit, there has been one full UK university admission cycle. Throughout this, we have been supporting families around the world with their fee status queries and observing how Coronavirus has impacted the decisions universities make on who gets Home fees.
Maintaining ‘Ordinary Residence’ is a key criterion for achieving Home fee status for many British expats. One part of demonstrating that you maintain this status is through regular travel back to the UK (or EEA in some cases) during periods where you reside elsewhere. When subject to a fee status assessment by the universities that they are applying to, students are often asked about their travel pattern back to the UK over a number of years as a qualifying characteristic of Ordinary Residence. As Covid-19 grounded flights in early 2020, British expats who live abroad would have seen this important travel pattern interrupted, and thus threaten to jeopardise the Ordinary Residence status that they rely on to remain eligible for Home fees.
There has been no formal national guidance on how universities should take this into consideration when assessing a student’s fees. Instead, each university has been left to use their discretion on individual fee status cases. Overall, we have seen most universities being flexible regarding the travel element of students’ fee status cases, i.e., the lack of travel has not automatically disqualified a student from obtaining Home fees. Most institutions have been empathetic to the fact that families have not been able to get back to their home country. However, despite this flexibility, we have seen universities across the country becoming increasingly strict on fee status in the last year, resulting in many more British expat students being classified as Overseas fee-payers than in previous years. This is likely to be a result of the Pandemic and also Brexit falling within the same year; two big financial blows to the university sector leading to more hard-line policy on who gets Home fees.
We are now in a new academic year, where students who wish to start university in 2022, will also have been prevented from travelling back to the UK in recent years. We are keeping a close eye on fee status assessments and if the same concessions will be made in the current admissions cycle. But as each university uses their discretion and makes decisions on a case-by-case basis, there is no guarantee that this flexibility will continue. Covid-19 is likely to impact fee status for many years to come, so is there anything you can do to minimise the impact on your own fee status case?
Here are a few tips that have helped our expat families impacted by travel restrictions:
- As always you should keep records of all your travel to the UK, dating as far back as you can.
- If you booked any travel during the Pandemic which was cancelled or postponed, keep records of this also to show that you intended and attempted to go back but were prevented from doing so by things outside your control.
- Don’t expect UK Admissions teams to know what travel restrictions there are around the world, as they differ in each country. Keep a copy of the current travel guidance where you live in case you need to show the university that you were subject to travel restrictions. Screenshots of a news articles or national Coronavirus updates can be helpful.
- Itemise your travel pattern pre-pandemic, to show that prior to travel restrictions you regularly travelled back to the UK. Volunteer this information to the university when you are being fee status assessed.
- Consider travelling back to the UK as soon as you’re able again to show commitment to maintaining your Ordinary Residence.
UK Study Options are experts on UK university fee status and we support families all over the world with their personal fee status cases. Find out if you’re eligible for Home fees by completing our online form.