FAQs for Year Abroad students

These FAQs are for Information for undergraduate students with a year abroad as part of their course. Before reviewing them, you should first read the information about University’s response to coronavirus on the student coronavirus information pages.

The following information should be read in conjunction with the Year Abroad and Erasmus information available on the Oxford and the EU: student Q&As webpage.

What is the University’s position on the Year Abroad in 2020-21?

The University currently intends for students to undertake their Year Abroad in 2020-21, subject to a robust and enhanced risk assessment process designed to mitigate the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. We are carefully monitoring the impact of the pandemic as the situation develops in different international locations, and will be regularly updating the guidance on this page as more information becomes available.

Relevant factors include local policies in host countries and organisations, restrictions on domestic and international travel, and the status of the UK Government’s foreign travel advice. Individual placements and courses are being affected in different ways, and students will need to be flexible in meeting the requirements of their course of study during the academic year. Start dates are being delayed where appropriate, and in alternative learning arrangements are being arranged where in-country placements are not viable.  

When will I find out if my placement is going ahead?

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic means that the normal processes for approving students’ travel plans are taking longer than usual, and we appreciate that the uncertainty is frustrating for students wishing to confirm their travel plans. Our priority is ensuring that your Year Abroad travel takes place safely and securely and provides you with a rewarding educational experience. Your department or faculty will be in touch with you directly as soon as it is possible to confirm the details of the arrangements for your planned activity.

Oriental Studies Year Abroad

Year abroad students in the Faculty of Oriental Studies were unable to travel during Michaelmas term due to the circumstances of the pandemic. The Faculty is monitoring the current travel situation carefully and decisions on travel and/or alternative teaching arrangements in Hilary term will be made in January. Students will be contacted by their course tutor in due course with further guidance.

I am concerned about going abroad due to the pandemic and its consequences. What options do I have?   

If you have concerns about travelling you should consult the year abroad coordinator in your department or faculty to discuss your concerns and to explore the sources of support that will be available to you during the year. It is important that your Year Abroad is a positive learning experience and everything will be done to ensure that placements are completed in a safe and supportive environment. The risks associated with travel will vary depending on your intended destination and the nature of your planned work or study placement, and it is likely that there can be some flexibility with the details your placement(s). 

Who should I contact if I experience a problem with my placement whilst abroad?

In the first instance you should contact the year abroad coordinator in your department or faculty and your College tutor as a matter of urgency for further advice and assistance. If you are undertaking Erasmus study or traineeships, you should also contact the Erasmus office: erasmus@admin.ox.ac.uk. Please make sure you keep all these contact details with you as well as those of family and friends, your insurance company, banks and mobile phone provider. Make sure that contact details are saved separately in case you lose your mobile phone.  

Can I live in my College if my Year Abroad placement is delayed?

Students are not normally provided with College accommodation in Oxford during the year abroad component of their degree course, and the expectation is that you will stay at home if there are periods during 2020-21 when you cannot travel and need to remain in your home country. If you are experiencing particular difficulties and would like discuss the possibility of returning to Oxford, please contact your college to explain your circumstances.

What do I do if I get sick while I’m away?

All students are required to have insurance ahead of their travel, typically provided through the University's insurers. If you require medical assistance, please contact a healthcare provider and your insurance company for support and advice. Students in the EU will continue to be able to make use of the EHIC (European Health Insurance Card) until 31 December 2020. Please note that the validity of the EHIC after 1 January 2021 is not guaranteed, and is dependent on the outcome of the negotiations on the future relationship between the UK and the EU. Students in the EU should always ensure that their insurance contains appropriate medical cover.

Will leaving a year abroad activity affect my academic progress?

Please be assured that we are committed to supporting our students’ academic success. The University has thorough processes for considering the impact of exceptional circumstances on students’ progression and assessment and these are used in a range of circumstances. Course requirements for students with a year abroad component are kept under review and in the case of substantial disruption individual faculties and departments will make adjustments on a cohort-wide basis, where possible. The expectation during 2020-21 is that you will adapt flexibly to changing circumstances, and will engage with any alternative learning arrangements that may be provided in cases where there is disruption to planned activities. 

Will my Student Finance maintenance funding from the UK government be affected if my year abroad placement is cancelled or I do not go abroad until later in the academic year?

Students who study abroad or complete an Erasmus work placement abroad can receive an increased overseas rate of maintenance loan for each term they are abroad. Students who are undertaking a work placement abroad outside of the Erasmus programme receive a reduced rate of maintenance loan compared to when they are studying in the UK.

Students who plan to study abroad later in the academic year, but are staying in the UK for one or two terms and studying with their home university, will be assessed for the applicable UK-based maintenance loan rate. The loan rate awarded is dependent on the student’s situation for the majority of the term. If students then travel abroad later in the academic year, they will receive the abroad rate for those terms.

Please also refer to the Student Finance FAQs on study/work abroad which are being updated with the latest guidance on a rolling basis.

Can I apply for University travel insurance cover?

Yes, providing that your Year Abroad placement has been approved by your department/faculty and an enhanced risk assessment has been completed, you may apply for University insurance cover by following the normal application process. See here for further details on eligibility and how to apply.

Will I be covered by University insurance if I incur extra costs due to COVID-19?

In line with the stance taken by most travel insurance providers, the cover currently provided by the University’s travel insurance policy does not include additional costs incurred as a result of COVID-19. Cancellation costs, or additional expenses for travel, subsistence, and accommodation arising from disruption related to the pandemic, will not be covered by University insurance. However there is no change to the normal insurance cover for emergency medical expenses, and your medical costs would be covered in the event that you were to contract COVID-19. For further details please consult the Travel Insurance webpage.

Erasmus

Can I receive Erasmus funding if I start working/studying remotely and then travel to the host country once it is permitted/once the faculty approves my travel?

The European Commission has confirmed that Erasmus+ students can start their mobility through virtual activities, with the aim of combining online learning/working with a physical mobility abroad at a later date, if and when the situation allows.

During the “virtual period” you will not receive an Erasmus grant. Once the physical mobility period starts, you will be entitled to receive the applicable Erasmus grant for the period spent abroad, provided this meets the minimum duration requirements.

Students who travel to their host country and receive virtual learning/work remotely from the host country (or a mixture of on-campus/on-site and online learning/work) are eligible to receive the Erasmus+ grant.

Students returning to the UK due to Covid-19 restrictions in their host country will now be eligible to continue receiving their Erasmus+ grant, providing that they continue studying/working virtually with their host organisation.

What should I do if my Erasmus study exchange/work placement is cancelled prior to my departure or whilst I am there?

Please contact the year abroad coordinator in your department or faculty and your College tutor as a matter of urgency for further advice and assistance. If you are undertaking Erasmus study or a traineeship, you should also contact the Erasmus office: erasmus@admin.ox.ac.uk to discuss the situation including any requirements related to your Erasmus grant.

Can I postpone my study exchange/work placement abroad to another semester/term?

Please contact the year abroad coordinator in your department/faculty, your College tutor, and the Erasmus office to discuss the possibility of postponing your study exchange/work placement abroad to another semester/term. Where it is possible to postpone the release of your Erasmus funding to another semester/term, you will be required to submit a series of Erasmus documentation prior to your departure. It is therefore important that you liaise with the Erasmus office as soon as your revised plans are confirmed. Please also bear in mind that there may be no study exchange places available at a partner university during another semester/term. Before postponing your exchange study or traineeship, it is critical that you speak with your year abroad coordinator and College tutor.

Are there any changes to qualify for Erasmus funding in terms of durations in light of the pandemic?

The minimum physical mobility durations to qualify for Erasmus funding remain the same – three months for study placements and two months for traineeships. Where it is not possible to start mobility abroad physically, a blended mobility approach could be used, i.e. to start with a period of virtual mobility, to be combined with a physical mobility abroad with a minimum duration of physical mobility as set out above.

Will I be covered by University insurance if I incur extra costs due to COVID-19?

In line with the stance taken by most travel insurance providers, the cover currently provided by the University’s travel insurance policy does not include additional costs incurred as a result of COVID-19. Cancellation costs, or additional expenses for travel, subsistence, and accommodation arising from disruption related to the pandemic, will not be covered by University insurance. However there is no change to the normal insurance cover for emergency medical expenses, and your medical costs would be covered in the event that you were to contract COVID-19. For further details please consult the Travel Insurance webpage.

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