Students May Not Be Allowed To Return To University For Five Weeks After Christmas To Prevent Spreading Coronavirus Round Campus
Many students can only begin to return to campus at the end of January, and some not until 5 week into the spring term
Students who go home for Christmas may have to wait five weeks into the spring term before they can return to campus.
That is according to new government coronavirus guidance, which says the measure “is to minimise transmission risks from the mass movement of students”.
The plan says those on practical or medical courses should be allowed to come back on a staggered basis over three weeks from 4 January.
But for those who do not have work, clinical or practical placements or on “courses requiring access to specialist or technical equipment”, they should not begin to go back until 25 January at the earliest, and should be spread out over a fortnight until 7 February.
As most universities plan to end their spring term after 12 weeks on 26 March, some students may be away from campus for almost half of that time.
And with the education department guidance on going home for Christmas stating people should return between tomorrow and 9 December, some students may be off-campus for more than two months.
Professor Glen O’Hara, who teaches modern and contemporary history at Oxford Brookes university criticised the plans, tweeting: “It is a total joke and an insult to hard-working lecturers and students.
“It is badly-written, badly-planned and a complete mess. Disgusting.”
The document to higher education providers, published this afternoon, states: “The government is committed to prioritising education and wants to enable all students, including those who have travelled home for the winter break, to return to university and resume blended learning.
“While we are confident that the face-to-face teaching element of blended learning can be done in COVID-secure environments, the mass movement of students across the country poses a greater risk for the transmission of infection between areas.
“It is important that measures are taken to manage the return to university carefully, to protect students, staff and local communities, while reducing disruption to education.
“This guidance sets out how we will support HE providers to enable students to return as safely as possible following the winter break, by staggering this process and to facilitate testing for all.”
Providers are advised that: “The return of students should be staggered over 5 weeks - this is to minimise transmission risks from the mass movement of students.”
It also states universities must offer “asymptomatic mass testing to all students on their return”, and says if they are using lateral flow tests then they should be tested twice, the second one three days after their arrival.
The guidance on who can return says “from 4 January to week commencing 18 January 2021 HE providers should allow those students on practical courses to return to campus in line with their planned start dates”.
It adds: “The remaining courses should be offered online from the beginning of term so that students can continue their studies from home.
“HE providers should plan for students to return gradually from 25 January, over a 2-week period.”
Students are also told to “use private transport wherever possible and only use public transport if they have no other option”, and universities should encourage people to “avoid car sharing with anyone outside their household or support bubble”.
Universities Minister Michelle Donelan said: “The health and wellbeing of students, staff and local communities is always our primary concern and this plan will enable a safer return for all students. But we must do this in a way which minimises the risk of transmission.
“I know students have had to make sacrifices this year and have faced a number of challenges, but this staggered return will help to protect students, staff and communities.
“It is so important students have the support they need to continue their education, which is why we are providing up to £20m funding for those facing hardship in these exceptional times.”