Students feel like an ‘afterthought’ after university return date

Ministers’ decision that universities cannot open up for another month ‘hugely disappointing’, say vice-chancellors and students feel like an ‘afterthought’.

Universities Minister Michelle Donelan, in a written statement, said the May date was a “cautious approach to the easing of restrictions” and “the movement of students across the country poses a risk for the transmission of the virus”.

It coincides with the next phase of lockdown restrictions easing, with pubs due to open indoors along with cinemas and theatres.

University students will not be allowed to return to campus for another month, ministers have announced as they were accused of “dashing the hopes” of around a million young adults.

University campuses across England will not reopen fully until mid-May at the earliest, the government has announced, leaving many students to continue remote learning for at least another month. Amid concerns about mental health and the quality of education, not least further questions about refunds on tuition fees and rent, for a reduced term before the summer break.

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Hillary Gyebi-Ababio, the National Union of Students’ vice president, spoke to the BBC and said “we are pleased that the government has finally remembered that students exist.”

But she warned that students would need support after so much disruption, including paying rent on accommodation they were not allowed to use.

The UCU lecturers’ union, which opposed an earlier return, said it would be more “honest” to accept that many courses would stay online until the autumn.

Students will be offered Covid testing on campus when they return, with an initial three tests under supervision, after which students will be asked to take tests at home.

There will also be an additional £15m for student hardship support this year, announced the universities minister.

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