Students can return to campus no earlier than May 17, the Government has announced.
This would be in line with Step 3 easing of restrictions, where people can mix indoors, hospitality can return indoors, cinemas can reopen, and international travel can resume with a traffic light system.
The latest lockdown easing steps saw shops reopen and hospitality allowed to open serving outdoor customers.
Students studying non-contact courses should not return earlier than May 17.
In a statement to parliament, Universities Minister Michelle Donelan said: “The government recognises the disruption that COVID-19 has caused for many students and their families because they have not yet been able to return to their university.
“Last academic term we advised that all students on practical and creative courses could return to in-person teaching from March 8 and committed to reviewing further returns by the end of the Easter holidays.”
She added: “The movement of students across the country poses a risk for the transmission of the virus – particularly because of the higher prevalence and rates of transmission of new variants.”
Returning students are encouraged to a test before they return, and also regularly use the Lateral Flow test system at NTU.
Universities will also receive an additional £15 million to student hardship funds from the government, the universities minister announced.
This announcement comes out after Vice-Chancellor Edward Peck said he has been “disappointed” by the lack of communication from the Government over the return of students.
Those on practical courses will come back to university after the Easter break as planned. Some students have not been allowed to return to campus since December.
A survey released by the Higher Education Policy Institute however found that two-thirds had already returned to their term-time address.
Professor Julia Buckingham, Presidents of Universities UK, said the delay in students returning was “disappointing” as young people are “desperate” to return to campus.
She said: “Universities have proven that the safety measures put in place – including regular asymptomatic testing, additional cleaning, support for self-isolating students and adherence to guidance on ventilation and face coverings – are enabling effective management of the virus on campuses, with minimal infection rates in face-to-face teaching settings and limited onward transmission to local communities.
“With schools, colleges and many businesses open, we now need the Government to urgently explain how it reached this decision so that universities can communicate with their students and continue preparing to maximise opportunities for in-person activities from May 17.”
By Kieran Burt
Lead Image: Olimpia Zagnat