The Government have announced last night that University Students will be asked to “stagger their return” back to campus after Christmas in order to limit the spread of COVID-19.
The guidance, published by the Department for Education, sets out how universities should manage student returns over a five-week period.
From the 4th – 18th January, medical students, those on placement or a practical course with a need for in-person teaching will return within their planned start dates.
The remaining courses will be offered online from the beginning of term so students can “continue their studies from home”.
From the 25th January, all other students are able to return gradually over a “two-week period”, and by the 7th February, all students are expected to have returned to university.
In the guidance, all students will be offered COVID-19 tests upon their return in order to help universities isolate those that are asymptomatic and universities are to be provided with the facilities to provide two lateral flow tests to students.
On Good Morning Britain today, the Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson, said “We’ve taken this unique measure to make sure the interest of students is best protected
“It will reduce the impact [of COVID-19] on their friends and the local community they live in.”
This plan will “enable a safer return for all students,” Universities Minister Michelle Donelan said, who also announced a £20m student hardship fund.
The UCU, the lecturers’ union, which has called for teaching to be online to avoid the spread of infection, said the plan for a delayed start to in-person teaching was a “step forward”.
The National Union of Students said students would still have to pay rent on “properties they are being told not to live in”.
In the House of Commons this morning, Shadow Education Secretary Kate Green welcomed the new measures but asked the Education Secretary “why did he leave students in a horrible and uncertain limbo?”
A Loughborough University spokesperson said: “Arrangements are already in place to deliver a phased return for students in the New Year. Further information will be shared shortly.”
The news follows a return of about 1.2 million students to their hometowns over the Christmas period with roughly 126,000 leaving the East Midlands.
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Updated 13:03 03/12/20 to include statement from Loughborough University