Updated government guidance released for university return

Joe Molander on the guidelines released on Monday

Joe Molander
25th February 2021
Image: Newcastle Uni Students' Union on Twitter
The government released updated guidance on Monday for students returning to higher education facilities in England for the spring term. In an email to students sent today, Lucy Backhurst – the academic registrar – explained it does not change how most students are currently studying.

Under the guidance, degree subjects that rely on specialist equipment and facilities are permitted to resume in-person teaching from 8 March. Higher education providers have been told not to ask students to return to campus if their subjects can “reasonably” be continued online, though.

The academic registrar’s email explains that each student’s school will contact them about whether their course resumes on 8 March.

The email adds “We hope that government guidance will allow more students to return to campus after Easter and that a further reopening of campus facilities will be possible in due course.”

The return of all other students will be reviewed by the government by the end of the Easter holidays. The guidance promises a week’s notice for students and higher education providers before the return of any further students.

It adds that students should not travel to their term-time address until in-person teaching resumes on their course, barring exceptional circumstances. These include lack of “appropriate alternative accommodation, facilities or study space”, and issues relating to health and safety.

In the same section, the guidance instructs that students have appropriate access to university facilities “to prevent isolation and mental ill health [sic]”.

The guidelines also call for “a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks of coronavirus.”

Risk assessments have been a major sticking point at Newcastle University since the beginning of the academic year. In October, the Newcastle University branch of the University and College Union (UCU) signalled that it might strike in part over them.

Students entering the UK who have spent time in a country subject to a travel ban will need to quarantine in a ‘quarantine hotel’. The quarantine lasts for ten days, and costs £1750 for one adult, which must be paid by the quarantining students.  

A brief section of the guidelines is devoted entirely to house parties.

Attendants of illegal gatherings that have over 15 people from outside their household will be subject to a fine. The fine starts at £800 and doubles for every repeat offence, with a ceiling of £6400.

This includes parties in student accommodation.

The guidelines also call for students to get tested for COVID-19 when they arrive back at university, and twice a week thereafter. These tests will be delivered at each campus by the government, working with the relevant higher education provider.

Higher education providers are also being encouraged to make testing available twice a week for staff. Clinically extremely vulnerable (CEV) staff are not encouraged to return to work in-person during the period in which they’ve been told to shield.

Upon receiving a negative test, the guidance recommends the use of face coverings, including transparent face coverings to aid communication. The guidance itself admits to “very limited evidence regarding the effectiveness or safety” of such coverings.

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AUTHOR: Joe Molander
Head of Current Affairs and co-founder of The Toon Lampoon. Politics, interviews, satire and the Courier's leading authority on frosted tips. @JoeMolander on Twitter and full portfolio available on Muckrack.

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