All university students in England can return for in-person teaching next week

It comes after some courses have been online for months due to the Covid pandemic

Zoe Tidman
Monday 10 May 2021 18:37
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Boris Johnson announces university students to return to campuses in England

All university students in England will be allowed to return to campus for face-to-face teaching next week, Boris Johnson has confirmed.

It comes after some courses have been online for over five months due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The prime minister’s announcement means students who have been at home since the Christmas holidays under government guidance will be able to return and resume face-to-face teaching from 17 May.

The measures are set to ease in line with the next step of England’s roadmap out of lockdown.

Returning students are encouraged to take a test via home or community testing at least one day before they travel back to term-time accommodation.

All students will then be encouraged to take three supervised lateral flow devices (LFD) tests three to four days apart at an asymptomatic testing site on campus, and then they will be expected to be tested two times a week.

Michelle Donelan, the universities minister, said she was ”pleased” that the prime minister confirmed on Monday all remaining students could return to in-person teaching from 17 May.

Students who have been learning online for months previously told The Independenttheir teaching is scheduled to have finished by 17 May and so were not expecting to receive face-to-face classes again before the next academic year - or before they graduate.

After the 17 May date for a full return was confirmed, Jo Grady from the University and College Union (UCU) said: ‘The decision to return to in-person teaching on university campuses when classes for the vast majority of students have already finished is a distraction, placing more workload onto burnt out staff.”

The union’s general secretary added: “The point of universities is learning and research, not jumping through ridiculous hoops.”

Last month, Ms Donelan said while some students will have finished or be approaching the end of their course by mid-May “a great number will not”.

She added: “We think it is important to give them the opportunity to get back for the wider university experience as well.”

On Monday, she urged students to make use of free tests on offer as they return to university.

Many courses moved online right before the Christmas holidays to allow students to migrate back home during a recommended travel period.

As England went into lockdown in early January, it was confirmed most courses would be taught virtually and these students told to stay put, while many were at home for the 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.

After it was confirmed all students will be allowed back for face-to-face teaching from 17 May, a Universities UK (UUK) spokesperson said this was “welcome”.

“Universities have been working hard to prepare in-person activities for returning students, including group work, graduate support and on-campus sport,” they said.

Additional reporting by Press Association

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