University Students in England Face Staggered Return after Christmas Holidays

UNIVERSITY Students in England Face Staggered Return after Christmas Holidays in Bid to Reduce the Transmission of Covid-19.

Universities should adopt a system that allows students to stagger their return over five weeks after Christmas to reduce the transmission of Covid-19, the Government has said. Coronavirus tests should be offered to all students when they return to campus in the new year to help isolate those who are asymptomatic.

Medical students and those on placements or practical courses with a need for in-person teaching in England are being advised to return to university between January 4 and January 18, according to the Department for Education (DfE) guidance.

Students will be offered two lateral-flow Covid tests when they arrive back – similar to the process for their departure. “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 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”. Vanessa Wilson, leader of the University Alliance group, welcomed the “clarity” about next term – and also the recognition that campus facilities would have to be kept open for students not going home at Christmas.

Emma Hardy, Labour’s shadow universities minister, said: “The delay in providing this guidance has caused huge, unnecessary stress for students and universities”.

The guidance was published hours before the start of the “travel window” in England – where students can return to their families for Christmas. Many universities are now rolling out mass asymptomatic coronavirus testing this week in a bid to get students home safely ahead of the festive break.


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Tony Winterburn

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