Students ‘deserve better’ amid uncertainty over full summer return, says NUS

‘It is unforgivable that higher education continues to be left in the dark,’ NUS official says

Zoe Tidman
Monday 12 April 2021 17:28
The National Union for Students has called for ‘clarity’ over the summer term
The National Union for Students has called for ‘clarity’ over the summer term

Students “need clarity” and “deserve better” amid ongoing uncertainty over the full return to campus, the National Union of Students (NUS) have said.

The body’s vice president for higher education said the sector “continues to be left in the dark” about plans for the summer term.

The government is yet to announce when all students will be allowed back on campus, after most students were told to stay put as their courses moved online, while many were still at home for the Christmas holidays.

From 8 March, all students on practical courses were allowed to join others on courses such as medicine and dentistry back on campus for in-person teaching, while others were still not allowed to migrate back to university.

In guidance over higher education in the spring term, the government said it will review options for the timing of the return for remaining students by the end of the Easter holidays.

With plans for the summer term not yet published, Hillary Gyebi-Ababio, the NUS vice president for higher education, said students need “clarity” about when they can expect to return to campus in order to make arrangements for learning and accommodation.

“Students deserve better to be ignored, yet again, by this government,” she said.

Ministers have insisted education is a priority in the coronavirus pandemic, with schools allowed to welcome back all pupils and more university students able to return to face-to-face teaching as part of the first set of lockdown restrictions eased in England on 8 March.

But Ms Gyebi-Ababio from the NUS said: “With so many other sectors having been given clarity by now,  it is unforgivable that higher education continues to be left in the dark about plans for the new term.”

She made the comments on the day England’s lockdown eased further, with gyms, non-essential retail and pub gardens allowed to reopen.

Ms Gyebi-Ababio said the uncertainty for university students was “needlessly causing distress”.

“We understand a return to campuses may need to be done cautiously, but this is no excuse for ignoring the matter entirely,” she said.

“Where restrictions remain it is vital that access is prioritised for those who need it most, whether this is because their course cannot be delivered remotely or because their learning and living environment is unsuitable”.

The Department for Education (DfE) said the government is committed to getting all university students back to campus as soon as the public health situation makes this possible.

In its spring term guidance, the DfE said the review into the return of students still at home - which will take place by the end of the Easter holidays - “will take account of the latest data” and be a “key part of the wider roadmap steps”.

Students and universities will get a week’s notice ahead of any further return, it added.

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