BBC News Family and Education Correspondent, Sean Coughlan, reported on Monday 2 November 2020 that Universities UK says students shouid stay in their accommodation rather than go home for the lockdown due to start on Thursday 5 November. The National Union of Students believes students should have a choice. ...

Lockdown: Students told not to rush home from uni

Universities say students in England should not move home for the lockdown - even if courses are switched to being taught online.

They do not want a rush of students leaving universities as the new restrictions come into force this week.

But the National Union of Students says students should have a choice to go home safely ahead of the lockdown.

The government's guidance says universities should consider putting teaching online where possible.

Universities UK says students should stay in their current accommodation and a mix of face-to-face and online teaching will continue through the lockdown.

What is the plan for Christmas?

But the National Union of Students says students are concerned about the new restrictions and some will want the "support network" of their family - and so should be "able to travel home safely before lockdown starts".

The UCU lecturers' union says teaching should move online to reduce spreading coronavirus by "unnecessary journeys to attend campus".

There have been Covid outbreaks in 119 universities so far this term, says the Unicovid website, and the UCU says there have been more than 34,000 student cases.

"The government has made it clear that students should remain at university and that teaching, learning and student support should continue," says Universities UK.

It follows guidance for the new restrictions that says: "Universities and adult education settings should consider moving to increased levels of online learning where possible."

It also warns against travel between term-time and home addresses, saying students should "only return home at the end of term for Christmas".

It still remains unclear how or when the departure of students for Christmas will be managed - but the government in England has given a commitment that students will be able to get home.

There are 1.2 million students in England who are at a university in a region that is different from their home address - which means they could have to travel between places with different levels of Covid infection.

The SAGE scientific advisers have raised concerns about the spreading of coronavirus by such students moving during the Christmas and New Year breaks.

'Safe journeys home'

Pilots have begun for the mass testing of students to prevent the spread of coronavirus - including fast turnaround "lateral flow tests" at Durham and De Montfort universities which will identify students with the virus but without any symptoms. 

Ministers have suggested that in-person teaching will stop two weeks before the usual end of term - and there have also been suggestions that students will be kept in isolation in universities for those two weeks.

The end of face-to-face teaching for all subjects could be early December for some universities, which could almost overlap with the four-week lockdown, set to end on 2 December.

The National Union of Students has called for students to be told as soon as possible about plans for leaving at the end of term.

Jo Grady, leader of the UCU union, says that courses should be moved online straightaway - and then the focus should be "to get a plan in place for students to begin safe journeys home once lockdown has ended".

The university watchdog, the Office for Students, says no matter how students are taught they still had a right to expect a "quality higher education".

"As universities make changes in response to the developing situation, it is important that they continue to provide suitable academic support to all students and that the quality of education - including online teaching and learning - remains high," said chief executive Nicola Dandridge.

Lockdown: Students told not to rush home from uni - BBC News