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I am an international (Tier 4) student taking MEng Chemical Engineering and it is my final year. Before the last academic year ended, I travelled back to my home country (13 hours away) for the better access to healthcare/testing and also to be around my loved ones while the state of COVID was escalating worldwide (the first wave). I was able to carry out the remainder of that academic year remotely and this included my research project which involved the heavy use of COMSOL.

Like many other universities, my university did not make it clear what the exact plans were for the new academic year up until a few weeks before the semester started. But one of the things implemented was that undergraduate students would be able to apply for remote study for the first semester. They released a list of courses for which this would be applicable to and for mine it was "possible - case by case basis" so I applied and highlighted my reasons for wanting to study remotely. This was 2 weeks before the start of the term and I had applied the very night applications were open. For those 2 weeks I'd heard of my peers from other courses getting their approvals but my response only came in during the first week of the term. It was a rejection with no reason given and they said I had to be back on campus by the 19th of Oct or take a Leave of Absence for the year.

Since they only gave their reply after the term had started, I had already began engaging with classes via Microsoft Teams and it turns out even classes which were classified as "In-person only" were still put on Teams. And only about 3/15 hours peer week (at most) were in-person with the rest being online or dual delivery. Due to this, I decided to make an appeal for my application and emailed the Associate Dean (Teaching) of my School who was partly in charge of reviewing our applications. I went through my reasons again but this time in detail and told him that it seemed very much possible for me to carry out this semester remotely. I told him I at least needed to know why they gave the rejection. He got back to me a few days later still adamant that the school would not be able to support my application because ONE of my modules involves the use of COMSOL. The program which I in fact did access last semester via Remote Desktop with one of the PCs on campus. I wrote back to him pointing this out and that the university's IT Services has actually made it easier for students to access campus PCs remotely with their new system.

I received no reply to my argument and it is now past the deadline for me to return to campus. The school/university have not said anything so far and I've continued to take part in all my classes (including computer lab sessions) via Teams. It has been going fine but I'm just worried because I don't know my rights in this situation. The UK government's Tier 4 guide for COVID has already made it clear that we're allowed to study remotely for the 2020/21 academic year so I do not think there should be any visa implications. But can my university force me to take a leave of absence? What are the grounds for this? Because I don't think this could count as a disciplinary issue, could it? And there are always a bunch of students learning remotely on Teams (with it being the majority in some classes), even when they are on campus. It just does not feel fair for them to penalise me for this.

Any thoughts/insight on the matter would be appreciated

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