Covid-19 and Study Abroad

Travelling overseas for University activity in academic year 2021/22

There are restrictions in place for international travel.  Please carefully read the government guidelines to find out what may apply in your circumstances. If you are unsure about anything, please get in contact at studyabroad@reading.ac.uk.

Getting approval to travel

Please read the government rules on travelling from England to outside the UK. University decisions to grant students permission to travel abroad for work placements, study abroad or other activities will be assessed on a country-by-country basis. Our decision will be informed by:

  • Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) guidance;
  • guidance from the University’s Insurance provider; 
  • Government and institutional policies in the host country.

If you are due to go abroad in academic year 2021/22 you must follow the process outlined below for the activity you are undertaking:

Study Abroad

Once your Study Abroad placement has been confirmed by the host institution, you must complete the required documentation, including Risk Assessment, and gain approval specific to your circumstance before booking any travel. It is recommended that this is done at least 28 days in advance of travel, where possible. 

Completion and approval of the updated Risk Assessment & Health and Safety Form that has been provided to you is mandatory, even if you have already been accepted to study abroad by one of our institutional partners.

Overseas placement

Students wishing to undertake overseas work placements which are part of their course will need to seek formal approval and follow the Enhanced Risk Assessment process in place for their school. Please contact your Placement Tutor or coordinator for more information or email placements@reading.ac.uk   Please inform us as soon as possible as it can take a minimum of 6 weeks to approve an overseas placement. Find out more

How to gain University of Reading insurance cover

Please take the following steps to seek approval to be covered by University insurance:

  1. Review all the information on these pages before starting the process.
  2. Obtain and review information on the country or countries you plan to visit on the UK Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) website. Undergraduate students studying abroad for a semester or a full academic year as part of their degree will receive further information from the Erasmus & Study Abroad Office and their School.
  3. Complete the Risk Assessment for Study Abroad for the Academic Year (the Erasmus and Study Abroad Office will share this with undergraduate students planning to study abroad for a semester or a full year) normally no later than 28 days in advance of travel.
  4. Submit the completed form to studyabroad@reading.ac.uk, who will liaise with the relevant colleagues for approval.  If your study abroad is with Modern Languages (Department of Languages and Cultures ) then submit the form to yearabroad@reading.ac.uk
  5. Once you have received your signed Risk Assessment form, you should complete the necessary logistics, such as travel booking, visa (if required), accommodation, transport, personal health planning, purchasing additional insurance if required etc. 
  6. Complete the Overseas Travel Form on RISIS when your travel details are finalised before you travel (and keep up to date if there are any changes).

Please note: Postgraduate students should follow the procedure outlined in the Code of Practice 38

What University of Reading insurance covers

If the University approves the travel, then you will receive the cover as set out in the Group Personal Accident & Business Travel Policy as long as the appropriate Risk Assessments and other documents have been completed, including completion of the online RISIS Travel form.

Please read this policy carefully so that you understand what you are covered for and that it applies to your unique and personal circumstances, what is required to make a claim, as well as any exclusions when the policy may not apply. 

It is your responsibility to ensure that you have (at your cost) insurance in place for anything not covered by the policy.  When your travel has been approved, currently the University Insurance policy covers you if you develop symptoms or contract COVID-19, but you must be adhering to all local government and UK Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) advice. Any changes to this will be updated on this page and communicated to affected students.

University Insurance Cover will depend on the UK government (FCDO) risk level of the country you are travelling to.

‘Low risk’ countries

‘Low risk’ refers to countries where no FCDO travel restriction advice or guidance is provided. For details, please check the FCDO country page of your placement destination to see what, if any, travel advice is provided. Currently, travel to a Low-Risk country would be covered by University of Reading insurance. However, the insurance policy will not cover any quarantine costs including but not limited to any COVID-19 test or tests required by the destination country(ies): prior to arrival, during the overseas stay(s) or on departure, or by the UK prior to departure or on or after arrival into the UK or any costs relating to hotel quarantines.

‘Medium risk’ countries

‘Medium risk’ refers to countries where the FCDO states: “… THE FCDO advises against all but essential travel to…” which are not listed on the UK Government red-list of countries. For details, please check the FCDO country page of your placement destination to see what, if any, travel advice is provided. If the FCDO page advises against all but essential travel to that country, then it is considered to be at least a Medium Risk country. Full cover will not apply for travel to a Medium Risk country. Insurance cover will exclude Cancellation/Curtailment, Political Evacuation and Crisis Management.

‘High risk’ or Sanctioned countries

High risk’ or Sanctioned countries refer to countries where the FCDO states: “… The FCDO advises against all travel to…” and detailed as a Red List or Sanctioned country. Please see the UK Government website for a list of red-listed countries. For details please check the FCDO country page  for your placement destination to see what, if any, travel advice is provided. If the FCDO page advises against travel to that country, then it is considered a High-Risk country. Full cover will not apply for travel to a High-Risk country. Insurance cover will exclude Cancellation/Curtailment, Political Evacuation and Crisis Management.

Please contact your Study Abroad Coordinator for further guidance. The Erasmus & Study Abroad Office can be contacted by email at studyabroad@reading.ac.uk and is also available for 1-2-1 phone or video calls.  

Q: What happens if the UK Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office changes its advice for the country I am planning to visit?

Before you travel, you should monitor the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office website regularly to keep up to date with the latest information for the country you are planning to visit. If the UK Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office advice changes for the country you are travelling to prior to your trip, you must re-submit your Risk Assessment form for re-consideration. If the advice changes while you are already overseas, you will be covered by University Insurance and we will contact students affected to provide further information about recommended next steps.

Q: If I am living outside of the UK and it is approved that I can travel for University activity (for research, placements, Study Abroad or fieldwork), am I insured?

You must seek approval to travel by completing the Risk Assessment process outlined above, before you travel. Once we have received your Risk Assessment, we will review it alongside the information obtained and forward to insurers for review. It is possible that certain elements of the policy may not be covered in these circumstances or there may be an additional premium required. We will let you know once the decision has been made by the insurance company. You should not travel until we have confirmed this.

Q: What paperwork do I need to complete to be allowed to study abroad?

This will depend on where you are going. Either the Erasmus & Study Abroad Office or your School will confirm what is required. All students must complete the Health and Safety Travel Risk Assessment and submit it for approval before any travel or accommodation is arranged and complete the online RISIS form. The Erasmus & Study Abroad Office or your School will provide you with a copy in advance of your placement. A copy is stored in Blackboard page ‘Erasmus and Study Abroad Information (Outgoing Students)

Q: Can I delay or defer my study abroad placement due to the pandemic?

Delaying your study abroad placement will be a decision for your School, and the host institution. Each partner institution is implementing their own policies regarding delayed attendance, and you should follow their instruction. It might be possible to study online from your home to start with, and then travel, however some institutions will only allow you to study online for the whole semester or be present for the whole semester. Do your research early about what is possible. Deferring your study abroad placement is not normally possible. You will need to discuss this with your Study Abroad Coordinator first and foremost at the earliest opportunity, and then the Erasmus & Study Abroad Office (voluntary mobilities).

Q: Can I go to a different university if I am unable or do not want to travel to my allocated institution due to COVID-19?

In general, it is not possible to change institutions as quotas have already been agreed with our partners. Students on compulsory mobilities should contact their School Study Abroad Coordinator. Students on voluntary mobilities you should contact the Erasmus & Study Abroad Office (studyabroad@reading.ac.uk).

Q: I am considering changing my study abroad or placement plans, what should I do?

You should update your Study Abroad Coordinator and the Erasmus & Study Abroad Office before you make any decision, and they will provide you with guidance about next steps:

• You must inform the host institution at the earliest opportunity to try to avoid any charges being levied.
• You may need to reserve or extend your accommodation in Reading – if you are in halls please contact accommodation@reading.ac.uk.
• You will need to confirm that you are registered on sufficient modules – your Academic Tutor and Study Abroad Coordinator can assist you.
• Erasmus and Study Abroad Office (ESAO) will update Student Finance, but it is likely that you will need to complete a form, so we recommend you confirm the decision with them.

Whilst our priority remains student well-being and welfare, there may be academic and financial consequences if you decide to leave your placement if the University of Reading has not recalled students or the Foreign Commonwealth & Development Office changes its guidance. Please consult with your Study Abroad Coordinator at the earliest opportunity.

Any students on programmes with integrated study abroad (i.e., a compulsory part of the degree) who do not wish to travel will be supported in their decision and might be offered alternative options, where possible. If you have any questions, please contact your Study Abroad Coordinator, or the Erasmus & Study Abroad Office (studyabroad@reading.ac.uk).

Q: What will happen to my studies if I need to return to the UK / home country before finishing my time abroad?

This will depend on whether your host institution is able to allow you to study remotely online, and what impact your study abroad placement will have on your degree programme. You should contact and discuss this with your Study Abroad Coordinator before you make any decision.

Q: Can I remain in country even if the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office and University of Reading guidance recommends I return to the UK

The normal expectation is that you would return to the UK or home country. However, it is understood that there could be valid reasons why you might wish to remain in country. You would need to discuss your decision with your School and complete a further risk assessment. There could be insurance and financial implications if you decide to remain in country in this circumstance.

Q: Will I receive Erasmus funding and will it be affected if I return from placement early?

The Erasmus & Study Abroad Office will update eligible students of any developments. If funding is available and awarded, it is likely to be affected by an early departure, but it will depend on the timing and circumstances. It is likely that you may need to repay back funds. Please contact the Erasmus & Study Abroad Office (studyabroad@reading.ac.uk) for more information.

Q: What should I do if I contract COVID-19 while I’m abroad?

If you receive a positive test result for COVID-19 you must follow the steps to notify the University so we can support you. It is also important that you inform your Study Abroad / Placement contact for your School as well as placements@reading.ac.uk/studyabroad@reading.ac.uk . If you, or anyone you live with has symptoms of the virus, you must self-isolate in line with government guidelines which also includes guidance from the country you are located. If you start to feel ill while abroad, contact your host institution and follow guidance provided to you. They can provide you with local, up-to-date and in-country guidance. In addition, please update your Study Abroad Coordinator here at Reading, especially if you think that this could impact on your studies abroad.

Q: Will I need to go into quarantine / self-isolation at the host institution?

Each country will have different policies, which might be different between various regions within that country. It is important that you keep up-to-date and follow the instructions provided to you by the host institution, the government advice provided by the host country’s government and the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office guidance.

Q: What if there is a local COVID-19 outbreak whilst I am abroad?

First and foremost, you should follow the local and / or national advice provided by the host institution and local authorities.  In addition, you should:

  • Ensure you stay safe
  • Share this local information with the Erasmus & Study Abroad Office as soon as possible

You should also ensure that you access the various Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office information sources for your country, and the information on the Healix Travel Oracle app. Do not make any decisions without consulting your Study Abroad Coordinator and the host institution.

Q: Who can I speak to if I need help or support whilst abroad during the pandemic?

Your host institution or organisation is your first port of call if anything happens. However, you remain a University of Reading student and therefore can access relevant support here. See the Health and Well-being pages to find out what is available to you. You can also contact the Erasmus & Study Abroad Office and your school for assistance, or your Study Abroad Coordinator.

Your primary contacts while in country are:

  • Host Institution: In-country support eg, study programmes; accommodation issues; arrival information; welcome week etc, as well as local guidance on COVID-19 measures
  • Study Abroad Coordinator: All academic matters about studying abroad (before, during and after); any concerns / personal matters whilst abroad. 
  • Academic tutor: Personal matters; academic information about studies at Reading. 
  • ESAO: Erasmus+ / Study Abroad admin and paperwork; UoR/Erasmus/Student Finance grants; additional point of contact.

If you are concerned about your personal situation before you travel, please contact your Study Abroad Coordinator and / or the Erasmus & Study Abroad Office to discuss

Q: I am due to return to the UK from studying or working abroad, what do I need to do?

Please keep up to date with the UK government guidance as this can change at short notice. It is strongly recommended that you read the comprehensive information provided on the UK Government website