Ministers want to place universities in England into lockdown for two weeks before Christmas, with students told to remain on campus and all teaching carried out online, the Guardian reports.
In the plans, which the Guardian reports is in its early stages, universities would go into lockdown from 8th December until the 22nd December, in which afterwards students would be allowed to return to their homes.
The hope is that this limits the spread of COVID-19 between students and local communities in the weeks before millions of students travel home. This follows Boris Johnson’s pledge to “get students home safely before Christmas”.
Infection rates across UK campuses are significantly higher than in the general population, with Loughborough having a case rate of 209.8 per 100,000, for the week up to the 10th October, the highest in Leicestershire including Leicester itself which has a rate of 165.4 per 100,000.
Included in the plans is that students with symptoms, and those who have been in contact with them, would have to remain in their accommodation for as long as they are legally required to – even if it goes over the Christmas period.
Mike Sandys, director of public health for Leicestershire, whilst speaking to the BBC said: “Clearly the student population [at Loughborough University]is going to be a driver but it would be wrong to look at it and say, ‘It’s all students, it’s their fault’. Clearly, there’s a lot of cases out there anyway.”
Jonathan Morgan, leader of Charnwood Borough Council, said: “For us as a community, those figures [from the university]are showing up within the borough’s figures as well.
“But all of us have to play our part to try to keep this under control – it’s not just about the university.”
Michelle Donelan, the universities minister for England, is to hold talks with representatives of Universities UK and other higher education leaders on Thursday in an effort to persuade them to back the plan, the Guardian reports.
Many university leaders, including ones from Loughborough University, have previously stated that they are unhappy about the Government’s behaviour towards universities.
Manuel Alonso, Director of Student Services for Loughborough, spoke on Twitter last month stating that it was “unhelpful” for the Government to “leak these changes to the press late at night… just generates endless questions and uncertainty.”
Richard Taylor, Chief Operating Officer for the University, has previously dismissed
similar claims made by the press in regards to students not being able to return home over Christmas, saying that “the comments were speculative and truncated” and had found “no reasonable basis for the policy”
“Regardless, LU has a contingency plan if needed to ensure students could return, based on additional extensive testing.”
Two weeks ago, the Prime Minister told a press conference that “I can assure everybody at university that there are plans to get students home safely for Christmas,” whilst the Education Secretary said that the Department for Education would issue guidance “so that every student will be able to spend Christmas with their family”.
Loughborough University has been asked to comment on the plans released by the Guardian.