United Kingdom: Quarantine capacity problem

EducationWorld September 2021 | International News

The arrival in the UK of a potential 100,000 international students from Covid red-list countries in the coming months presents a “clear quarantine-capacity problem” that could “overwhelm” the system, with allowing universities to use their own accommodation for quarantine one possible solution discussed in the sector.

Foreign students in the UK: red list system hurdle

Travellers with residence rights in the UK arriving from red-list countries are required to quarantine for 10 full days in a managed quarantine hotel. With nations such as India and now Indonesia on the red list, overseas students could pose a problem in terms of available quarantine hotel rooms — reported to be a maximum of 28,000 when the red-list system was launched in February, but potentially lower now.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) is reported to have recently set up a managed quarantine board focused on the international student issue to address the looming problem. One potential solution to expand capacity could be for universities to use their own accommodation to quarantine students, but that would necessitate changes in government regulations.

Comments Vivienne Stern, director of Universities UK International (UUK): “There will be something like 100,000 students (coming to the UK from red-list countries) between the beginning of summer and mid-October — that’s if the red list stays as it is. So there’s a clear (quarantine) capacity problem.”

The Westminster government has introduced a temporary concession allowing universities, normally required to monitor the in-person attendance of international students under visa sponsorship rules, “to provide tuition via distance learning for international students studying overseas”. It has since extended that concession to April 2022. But international students are likely to be dismayed if a lack of quarantine beds forces them into online education at home. Meanwhile in Scotland, the use of cruise ships to quarantine international students is under consideration by the government.

Bumper pay indignation

For-profit colleges in the UK gave their leaders huge pay packages as the coronavirus pandemic hit. Analysis of financial accounts published by three of Britain’s largest private higher education providers — the London School of Science and Technology (LSST), BPP University and BIMM Institute — indicates that last year because of generous awards of pay, dividends and company shares their directors earned more than some of the UK’s highest paid university vice chancellors.

At the LSST, a college chain with seven campuses across London, Luton and Birmingham, directors Syed and Hassnain Zaidi received £920,000 (Rs.9.43 crore) in 2019-20, of which £650,000 was dividends and £270,000 remuneration. In the previous two years, Mr. and Mrs. Zaidi received £688,000 (Rs.7.05 crore) and £519,000 in dividends and pay from the college, which currently charges annual tuition fees of up to £9,250 (Rs.9.42 lakh).

Overall, the school, whose students received £2.9 million (Rs.29.73 crore) in tuition fee loans and £7 million (Rs.71.7 crore) in maintenance support (from government) in 2019-20, recorded an after-tax profit of £5.9 million on its £27.6 million (Rs.282 crore) turnover that year.

At BPP University, which enjoyed a 19 percent profit margin (£17.9 million) on its £94 million (Rs.963 crore) turnover, vice chancellor Tim Stewart received £372,985 (Rs.3.8 crore) in salary, bonus and benefits, although its unnamed highest paid director also received £294,000 in qualifying services as part of £1.2 million (Rs.12.3 crore) paid to directors.

In its accounts, BPP University, whose students claimed £10.2 million (Rs.104.5 crore) in postgraduate loan support that year, and its holding company said they received £1.3 million in government coronavirus grants.

This bumper payout follows controversy over high pay for university vice-chancellors, despite some taking pandemic-related pay cuts. Leaders of Russell Group universities were paid an average £386,000 (Rs.3.95 crore) in 2019-20, according to a Times Higher Education analysis.

Jo Grady, general secretary of the University and College Union, says there is “no justification” for such generous allowances to institutional leaders. “Staff are tired of the hypocrisy from senior staff when it comes to pay,” says Dr. Grady. “It’s still clearly one rule for those in the classroom and another for those in the boardroom — lack of self-awareness from university leaders when it comes to their own pay is an embarrassment for the sector.”

In a statement, the LSST said directors’ dividends accounted for just 2.4 percent of revenues and pay only 1 percent.

Excerpted and adapted from Times Higher Education

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