Covid-19 student FAQs

This page answers questions in relation to the asymptomatic test site, returning to the University and your studies in 2021.  

Following the rise in Coronavirus (Covid-19) cases across parts of England the Government has required all universities to restrict and delay the anticipated return of students in January, to reduce the potential transmission of the virus across different parts of the country.

For the majority of (taught) students, on-campus teaching was not due to start until 1 February when the second semester begins. Ahead of that date we are planning for the online assessment period (between 9 – 23 January) to continue as scheduled and the UoBe Festival (week commencing 25 January) will be delivered virtually. The Government has updated its guidance to universities about the timing of resuming face-to-face teaching with the expectation that, apart from the small number of exempt programmes noted below, teaching will be online only until mid-February.

The Government has identified a small group of taught subject areas that can return to campus study and placement activity from 4 January and where in-person teaching can continue, including: Medicine & Dentistry, subjects allied to medicine and health (including all branches of nursing and physiotherapy), Education (initial teacher training) and Social Work. If you are on one of these programmes your School will have confirmed this. 

We are awaiting further clarification on the position for Research Students. Our current understanding is that PGR students can continue to access specialist facilities on campus, where these facilities are essential to your research, but where you are able to continue your research activity from home you should do so. We will provide further information as soon as more detailed guidance becomes available.

There is also very clear guidance about the steps necessary to ensure the safe return of students, including the completion of two asymptomatic COVID tests, at least three days apart, in advance of any return to on-campus activity. We will be offering free, rapid Covid-19 tests again until 5 February in the University’s Great Hall. Students who are asymptomatic (without symptoms), who may be infectious but unaware, can book free and simple tests, with rapid results, and help protect others when returning to campus. 

In accordance with new Government guidance, we strongly recommend that you take two tests three days apart when you return in January.  As always these tests are voluntary, but by completing them you are helping to protect the health of your fellow students and staff at UoB by reducing the potential for transmission of the virus.

Bookings are now open for 2021 asymptomatic testing. 

In December the UK Government confirmed the details of the new Test to Release scheme for international travellers arriving or returning into England.  Under the scheme people returning to England who need to self-isolate will be able to take a COVID test with a private test provider to see if they can end their self-isolation early. Students will need to make the test arrangements themselves with one of the approved providers and the University will reimburse the cost of the test up to a maximum of £120.00. Further information is available in our update on Test to Release from 18 December and in the FAQs below.

Read the FAQs for:

 

All the latest guidance will be posted on the news section of the student intranet (which is also shared via the MyUoB app), or check our social media channels (@unibirmingham). We will also email important updates so please keep checking your inboxes.

Returning in January

Read our latest update on returning to campus in January

Can I still come to campus?

Following the rise in Coronavirus (Covid-19) cases across parts of England the Government has required all universities to restrict and delay the anticipated return of students in January, to reduce the potential transmission of the virus across different parts of the country.

For the majority of (taught) students, on-campus teaching was not due to start until 1 February when the second semester begins. Ahead of that date we are planning for the online assessment period (between 9 – 23 January) to continue as scheduled and the UoBe Festival (week commencing 25 January) will be delivered virtually.

The Government has identified a small group of taught subject areas that can return to campus study and placement activity from 4 January and where in-person teaching can continue, including: Medicine & Dentistry, subjects allied to medicine and health (including all branches of nursing and physiotherapy), Education (initial teacher training) and Social Work. If you are on one of these programmes your School will have confirmed this.

We are awaiting further clarification on the position for Research Students. Our current understanding is that PGR students can continue to access specialist facilities on campus, where these facilities are essential to your research, but where you are able to continue your research activity from home you should do so. We will provide further information as soon as more detailed guidance becomes available.

On returning to campus, the Government has also identified where there may be exceptions to the delayed return advice, including:

  • Students without access to appropriate study spaces or facilities in their vacation accommodation.

  • Students who have remained in their university accommodation over the vacation period.

  • Students who may require additional support – including for mental health and wellbeing.

  • Students on placements where these can continue, based on the local restrictions and where the placement provider has Covid-secure measures in place.

  • International Students who have remained in the UK or have already arrived in the UK.

There is also very clear guidance about the steps necessary to ensure the safe return of students, including the completion of two asymptomatic COVID tests, at least three days apart, in advance of any return to on-campus activity.

I would like to return to campus before my teaching starts because I don’t have access to quiet study space/suitable equipment/feel I would benefit from returning?

We understand that some students who may not have study space or access to suitable IT or other appropriate equipment at home, or who may otherwise feel they would benefit from returning to campus earlier.

Students in University accommodation can be assured all customary services related to their residential stay will be available.

The Government has also identified where there may be exceptions to the delayed return advice, including students without access to appropriate study spaces or facilities in their vacation accommodation, Students who may require additional support – including for mental health and wellbeing, and students on placements where these can continue, based on the local restrictions and where the placement provider has Covid-secure measures in place.

What will happen during the two week assessment period from 11-22 January?

We have already confirmed that the assessment period will take place online from 11-22 January. Students who, for personal reasons as noted above, need to return to their accommodation and the campus in order to be able to revise and undertake their online assessments during the two week assessment period from 11 January are able to do so.

If you have concerns about being able to study from home during January please get in touch with your School or College Wellbeing Officer.

What do I do if I am an international student arriving in the New Year?

If you are planning to travel to the UK you should consider delaying your arrival if your travel plans can be rearranged without additional costs. If you are arriving/returning to the UK please follow the most up-to-date advice available for international travellers which is available here.

The University is supporting all international students (including EU citizens) with the additional costs of the Test to Release scheme – further information available here. We have also asked that all international students update their study location plans for semester 2 – which you can do here.

When does teaching and learning activity begin on campus in 2021?

The Government has updated its guidance to universities about the timing of resuming face-to-face teaching with the expectation that, apart from the small number of exempt programmes noted above, teaching will be online only until mid-February.

Course teams are preparing to resume Semester 2 teaching online in the first instance and we will provide further information as soon as more detailed guidance becomes available.

What support is available for my mental health and wellbeing?

Support for your wellbeing is always available and we are continuing to provide a range of resources and expert contacts that are accessible wherever you are. Our Wellbeing Services are open from this week in your Schools and Colleges and from our Mental Health and Wellbeing Team

What financial support is available?

We understand the continuing impact of these restrictions on all of our daily lives, and, in particular the added financial difficulties that many of you will be facing. We have therefore established an Enhanced Student Support Fund – which will be available to all students so that targeted financial support can be provided for those in need. In addition to a substantial increase in the hardship funds available we have also made changes to the criteria so that all students who need additional support will be able to access this. We will provide more information about the Enhanced Student Support Fund and how you can apply shortly.

I am a commuter student - what does this mean for me?

In accordance with government guidance, you should continue to study from home and not access campus facilities – unless you fall into one of the exempt categories. In planning your return to on-campus activities we are recommending that all students should take two rapid LFD tests, three days apart, before using on campus facilities and in advance of any in-person teaching and learning.

 

Edgbaston campus

What will be open on campus?

Buildings and maintenance
Work is ongoing to identify buildings that need to remain fully operational, and buildings that may be placed into standby mode. Standby mode means they will remain compliant and ready to open but will not be accessible on a daily basis. This differs to the March Lockdown where buildings were temporarily closed for staff and student access. This list will be shared once finalised.

Sports, Museums and Galleries
The Government has confirmed that museums and galleries must close and therefore the Lapworth Museum, Barber Institute, Elgar Concert Hall (in the Bramall Music Building), and Winterbourne House will remain closed for visitors.

Winterbourne Garden opens to visitors for the 2021 season on Friday 8 January. Open seven days a week from 10.30am to 4.00pm (with last entry at 3.30pm), entry is free for UoB staff and students upon presentation of a valid ID card. Botanic Gardens are able to remain open during the current restrictions as they provide valuable access to fresh air and nature, so beneficial to health and wellbeing.  The house, shop and tearoom remain closed until further notice.

Sport & Fitness
In line with the Government lockdown rules, the University’s Sports Centre and Tiverton Gym have temporarily closed.

Cafes and catering
In line with the Government lockdown rules no household mixing, aside from support bubbles and two people meeting in public outdoor spaces is permitted so cafes and catering will be closed with the exception of sales by takeaway or click and collect. The latest opening times for outlets are set out below.  We will also continue to provide ‘isolation packs’ for any students that need to self-isolate during this period. As always, we will continue to keep these measures under review in light of any changes to government or local guidance.

Outlet

Opening Times from 6 January 2020

Main Campus Take away only plus click and collect where available

Monday – Friday

Medical School cafe

9.00am – 5.00pm

Library cafe

9.00am – 4.30pm

Costa Bramall

8.00am – 4.00pm

Costa Uni Centre

8.00am – 4.30pm

Starbucks Muirhead Tower

8.00am – 5.00pm

Starbucks Pavilion

8.30am – 4.00pm

Research Park

8.30am – 4.00pm

Food Court  - (Café go and Go Mex)

Closed

The Vale

Monday – Sunday

The Melt

10.30am – 6.30pm

Infusion

4.30pm – 9.00pm

Costcutter

8.00am – 8.00pm

I'm concerned about the infection rate on campus

The safety and wellbeing of our students and staff remains our priority and will be at the heart of any decisions we make. Thanks to the tremendous efforts of our community, COVID test-positive figures remain low on campus, with no evidence of transmission in teaching settings. For the latest figures visit the Test, Trace and Protect page.

What is life like on campus?

We want everyone to be able to do their best – even in these unusual circumstances - and we will continue to be flexible and understanding if you encounter difficulties (such as access to reliable Wi-Fi). We expect our on-campus facilities, including study spaces, libraries, and catering to remain open for students who are on campus, operating under our established Covid-safe measures.

Who can I socialise with?

In accordance with the National Lockdown (effective from the 4 January 2020), you may only socialise/exercise with your household (or support bubble) or exercise with one other person, which should be limited to once per day, and you should not travel outside your local area. You may meet your support bubble or childcare bubble where necessary, but only if you are legally permitted to form one.

Information about the testing process

Why should I get tested?

Lateral flow testing is designed to detect the level of virus in individuals who do not experience and show any symptoms (they are asymptomatic), but who could still be infectious and pass the virus to others. By taking a test you will help to stop the spread of the virus, protect other people and save lives.

Please do not book to attend if you have symptoms of Covid-19 (a cough, loss of taste or smell, or a high temperature). 

How do I book a test?

You should not visit the Asymptomatic Testing Site (ATS) if you have any symptoms of Covid-19.  If you have any symptoms of coronavirus then you should self-isolate immediately and apply for a test at your nearest testing centre

You can book online for an Asymptomatic Testing Site (ATS) (please note bookings close 2 hours before each appointment). 

Can anyone book a test?

All students will be eligible to book a test.  Tests are free and open to all current students. 

How many tests should I have?

In accordance with new Government guidance,we strongly recommend that all students take two tests three days apart if you return to campus in January.

Unfortunately, the booking system only allows for one booking at a time, so you will need to manually book in both tests separately. In between tests please do not use any on campus facilities and you should not attend any in person teaching activities until you have received two negative tests.  We also recommend that you limit your social contacts and follow local social distancing requirements and restrictions.  

Do I have to have the test?

No. This is entirely voluntary.  We are offering these tests to all students, specifically those without symptoms, because we know some people have COVID-19 without any symptoms at all.  By taking a test you will be helping minimise the potential for virus transmission when returning to campus.

What happens if I don’t take a test?

Students who do not get tested because they choose not to are advised to self-isolate for 10 days before coming to campus.

What if I have symptoms?

If you have any Coronavirus symptoms you should not visit the Asymptomatic Testing Site (ATS) If you have any symptoms of coronavirus then you should self-isolate immediately and apply for a test at your nearest testing centre. 

What does the test involve?

The test involves a swab from your nose and throat that you take yourself.  Your swab will then be tested by one of our on-site testing personnel to determine the result.  Staff will be available at the testing site to help and guide you and we are providing an accessible testing booth for anyone who needs additional support. 

Does it hurt?

The test might be a little uncomfortable, but is not painful and is very quick to do.

What is lateral flow testing and how accurate is it?

A lateral flow device (LFD) is a clinically validated swab antigen test that does not require a laboratory for processing and can turnaround rapid results within an hour at the location of the test.

Lateral flow tests (LFT) are validated technology, they are safe and the results are trusted. These tests have undergone rigorous testing and evaluation including at Public Health England’s research laboratories to ensure they are verified for use.

Lateral flow tests are highly specific, which means that only a very small proportion of people who do not have coronavirus will receive a positive result (false positive). Although they give a result much more quickly, LFT tests are not as sensitive as tests offered through other channels (e.g. PCR tests available in other channels like Local Testing Sites). Sensitivity measures how likely a test will return a positive result when that person is infected. This also means that if you test positive on a LFT test, it is likely that you are infectious at that moment, whereas people testing positive on more sensitive tests could be in the less infectious early or late stages of disease.

However, in mass testing, because so many people without symptoms are being tested there is still the possibility of getting a false positive result. Therefore, everyone who tests positive will need to have a confirmatory test to make sure the result is correct.

What happens if I test positive?

Anyone whose test returns a positive outcome must:

  • Self-isolate immediately, in accordance with Government guidance and do not travel.
  • Follow the advice to arrange a second, confirmatory, PCR test.

You will receive further information on what to do along with your test positive result.

Who will see my results?

A copy of your result will be sent to you and your GP. If you have tested positive, a notification will be sent to Public Health England (in England), Public Health Wales (in Wales), Health Protection Scotland (in Scotland), or the Public Health Agency (in Northern Ireland).

Anyone testing positive for the virus will be contacted by NHS Test and Trace to help them track their contacts. This will help people to identify who they may have been in close contact with, protecting others from further transmission. Close contacts of those testing positive will also hear from NHS Test and Trace, asking them to stay at home for 14 days to prevent them from unknowingly spreading the virus.

The University does not hold any of the test results and we have no access to your personal health data. 

If a close contact tests positive, do I have to self-isolate?

Yes, you will need to self-isolate for 14 days. 

Can I return to campus if I don’t get tested?

Yes, if you are on the list of exemptions further up this page, however you will not know if you have COVID-19 without symptoms.  

If I test positive what support will the University provide while I am isolating?

You will need to notify us that you have tested positive using our test and trace process

If you are in University or partner accommodation, you can access support if you are self-isolating, including an essentials food parcel. Students in private accommodation can access support from their College through student wellbeing teams.

All of our wellbeing support services will also continue to be available

What is the difference between the two testing sites on campus?

The Local Test Site (LTS) located near to Sports & Fitness is an NHS Community Test Site and has been open since the start of September. It is for testing people with Coronavirus symptoms and is bookable via the NHS Test and Trace Website.  The LTS typically uses the PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) test which requires analysing in a laboratory before you receive your result.

The LTS is open every day – including Bank Holidays over the Christmas period. 

The Asymptomatic Test Site (ATS) in the Great Hall is open to students without any Coronavirus symptoms only.  It will be open initially for a temporary period between 2-9 December 2020 as part of the UK Government national testing programme.  The ATS will use a test known as a Lateral Flow Device (LFD), which can give rapid results.   Bookings for asymptomatic tests can only be made via the University system.

What if I need to change or cancel my booking?

If you need to change or cancel your booking there is a link at the bottom of the confirmation email that says: change your appointment.  Click on the link and it will take you back to the calendar where you can change or cancel your booking.

Please, if you cannot attend your booked appointment for any reason, please do cancel via the link. This means that we can release the slot to another student for a new booking – or it would be wasted. Thank you.

International students: Test to Release

 

What is the Test to Release scheme?

Test to Release is for all travellers who would be required to self-isolate (also known as “quarantine”) on arrival for a period of 10 days in their accommodation.

Under the scheme people returning to England who need to self-isolate will be able to take a COVID test with a private test provider to see if they can end their self-isolation early.

Full details from the UK Government 

Who needs to self-isolate?

Anyone returning to the UK from abroad will need to self-isolate for 10 days unless they come from a country listed as on the travel corridor list. If you take part in Test to Release you may be able to reduce the time you self-isolate. 

How much does the test cost?

You will need to book the test with an approved provider however the University will reimburse the cost of the test up to a maximum of £120.00.  

We will be back in touch in January with details of the simple process for students to upload a copy of their test certificate and proof of payment to receive a refund of the costs up to the value of £120.  

When is Test to Release available and who can make use of it?

Reinsbursement for tests taken under Test to Release will apply to all registered University of Birmingham International Students (including EU Citizens) who travel to England between the period 15 December 2020 to 15 March 2021. 

You must opt-in to the Test to Release process before you travel. 

We will let you know when the refund scheme is open. 

I want to take part in Test to Release

To take part in the scheme you need to follow the advice on the UK Government website.

  • Book a test with a private test provider
  • Choose to opt into the scheme on the passenger locator form before you travel to England.
  • Keep a copy of your test certificate and proof of payment.
  • In January the University will confirm details of how to claim your refund of the cost of the test

About my studies

How will I know how to access these new online sessions?

Your department will provide further information on how to access any additional online sessions.

Will I be eligible for a refund of my tuition fees?

In line with the UK Government guidance, the University does not expect to offer any refunds of tuition fees for this period.  We are continuing to provide teaching, learning, assessment and support throughout this period as well as access to the campus facilities for those that have an exemption to attend.

Will there still be face-to-face teaching?

The Government has updated its guidance to universities about the timing of resuming face-to-face teaching with the expectation that, apart from the small number of exempt programmes noted above, teaching will be online only until mid-February.

Course teams are preparing to resume Semester 2 teaching online in the first instance and we will provide further information as soon as more detailed guidance becomes available.

We would ask that you follow the most up-to-date Government guidance at all times. When you are permitted to return, consider carefully and plan your return to campus activities in line with this advice and the latest Government guidance on testing to return before accessing campus facilities as detailed at the end of this message.

What if I need a coursework deadline extension or to make a claim for extenuating circumstances?

Our Framework for Educational Resilience has been developed carefully to try to ensure that every student can still undertake the assessments for their modules as originally prescribed. However, mindful of the difficult situations in which many students find themselves, and the real difficulties some students face in meeting assignment deadlines due to the continuing pandemic, we would like to remind you that you can apply for an extension or for extenuating circumstances.

We would also like to reassure you that, in the Boards of Examiners next summer, we will consider for each student the profile of marks as a whole (including second and first year marks)  when arriving at the final degree classification, taking account of the circumstances you have experienced whilst maintaining the integrity of your degree.

Please note: In light of the continuing COVID-19 situation, it is accepted that you may not be able to provide evidence of circumstances that have impacted upon your studies/assessments, whether related or unrelated to the pandemic (this should be indicated on your extenuating circumstances form).

Information about travel 

I am an international student and my airline requires a negative test before I travel. Can I use a negative lateral flow test result for this purpose?

No. Students should get advice from their travel provider and destination airport. If students do travel overseas, they should consider the restrictions on entry to the country in question, such as whether they would need to undertake a period of self-isolation in that country, and whether they would need to self-isolate when they return.

Returning students travelling from countries not on the exemption (travel corridor) list will need to self-isolate in their accommodation for 14 days.

What is the risk of catching coronavirus on public transport?

Risks of travelling on public transport are reduced significantly by wearing a mask, observing good hand hygiene and social distancing. Full guidance on safely travelling on public transport.

Are there any restrictions when being collected from or returning to halls of residence?

If  driving,  only travel  with members  of  your current  household  or the household  you are  going  to join. If a family member is collecting you from/returning you to University accommodation then only one person will be able to enter the building with you if you need help with your bag, and they must wear a face covering.

 

 

 

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