The erection of borders, disrupted transport and fear of infection mean many will have to stay put, but their mental health could be at risk, universities are warned

Exchange students have been left stranded across Europe by the coronavirus pandemic, as flights are cancelled and borders erected amid mixed signals over whether to stay or go, according to student groups.

There are fears for the mental well-being of students now under lockdown away from their families in a foreign country, with universities being urged to provide as much support as possible.

But for the moment the general advice is that students should stay put, because of the sheer difficulty of leaving and the risk of spreading the virus back home.

Gohar Hovhannisyan, vice-president of the European Students’ Union (ESU), an umbrella organisation for national unions, described the situation as “very, very chaotic”.

Member unions have been inundated with enquiries. “They are trying to find out the answers, which don’t exist,” she said.

One problem is that many countries have told their students to return, said Kostis Giannidis, president of the Erasmus Student Network (ESN), yet some students felt trapped after their host countries announced that they were closing their borders.

Read more : David Matthews : Times Higher Education : 24 March 2020