The plans, set out by the Department of Education (DfE), outline a five week period for students to return to campus. Those on more “practical” courses such as performing arts, medicine or sciences will return from 4 to 18 January. Others subjects such as English, History or Maths will be taught online at the start of term, with students not back until 25 to 7 February.
Students will be offered two more lateral flow tests upon arrival back.
Announcing the plans, universities minister Michelle Donelan said “The health and wellbeing of students, staff and local communities is always our primary concern and this plan will enable a safer return for all students.
“But we must do this in a way which minimises the risk of transmission. I know students have had to make sacrifices this year and have faced a number of challenges, but this staggered return will help to protect students, staff and communities.”
Jo Grady, general secretary of the University and College Union (UCU), called the new guidance a "step forward" but said that the plans "still pose a risk to staff and student safety".
She continued: "Universities must work with the government to support students who decide the reality of life on campus during this pandemic isn’t for them, including releasing them from accommodation contracts.”
The DfE also advises universities to prioritise students who may need access to campus earlier, such as those with mental health issues or without access to study space.
A one-off fund of £20mn has been announced to help particularly disadvantaged students in need of extra support.
It is not yet known how this guidance will apply to Newcastle University.