University leaders demand end to accommodation ban

Trevor Marshallsea, PAWed, 7 April 2021, 7:22 am

University leaders have intensified calls for the Prime Minister to give urgent clarity on when undergraduates can return to campus, saying it is illogical they are still being forced to stay at home under pandemic restrictions.

Universities UK (UUK), which represents vice-chancellors, said last month that institutions wanted students back on campus “as soon as possible after Easter” to offer them in-person activities and catch-up support.

As lockdown restrictions ease across the country, a million students remain banned from their university accommodation, and the vice-chancellors have now demanded a clear sign from the Government as to when the restriction will be lifted.

UUK has written to Boris Johnson to highlight the inconsistency in the fact that the campus ban continues although gyms, spas, zoos and theme parks can reopen from April 12, according to the Daily Telegraph.

The group wrote that universities have been “instrumental” in vaccine development and that the Government owes them an explanation after having not fulfilled its promise to review the ban at Easter.

“We are asking for an explanation for this omission and seeking urgent clarification about your Government’s plans for student returns and what further steps will be taken to support their education and wellbeing,” UUK said in the letter, seen by the Telegraph.

UUK president Professor Julia Buckingham and chief executive Alistair Jarvis pointed out that self-catering holidays would be allowed from Monday.

“It therefore seems illogical that students are not allowed to return to their self-catering accommodation and resume their studies … particularly at this crucial time of the academic year,” the letter said.

So far, the only students allowed to return are those studying for degrees requiring in-person teaching, such as medicine, and creative or practical courses that cannot be taught remotely.

A Department for Education spokesman told the paper that ministers are “reviewing options” for students to return and will announce plans “by the end of the Easter holidays”.

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