Prime Minister Boris Johnson has today (10 May) confirmed that all remaining university students can return to in-person teaching from 17 May.
The announcement came during the prime minister’s latest pandemic press conference, and is part of step 3 of the national roadmap out of lockdown, which will see a further easing of restrictions on indoor mixing and social contact.
Remaining students are encouraged to take a Covid-19 test either through home or community testing at least one day before they travel back to their term time accommodation.
Thereafter, all students and staff will be encouraged to take three, free supervised lateral flow tests three to four days apart at an on-campus asymptomatic testing site. They will be expected to be tested two times a week throughout the rest of the summer term. Home testing kits will be available for those unable to attend on-campus testing facilities.
All students and staff who test positive from an LFD test will need to self-isolate for 10 days, unless they receive a negative PCR test result within two days of the LFD test being taken.
Graduate Employment and Skills Guide
To coincide with the confirmation of the 17 May return, the government has also published a Graduate Employment and Skills guide.
Developed by the Department for Education with the Office for Students (OfS) and universities, the guide offers “a five-step plan” to students who have graduated during the pandemic and might have missed out on opportunities they would have had access to in normal times, helping them assess their post-university choices, identify and develop their critical skills, gain professional experience, and further their career while maintaining good mental wellbeing.
I know that employers will recognise the resilience and strength of this year’s graduates and the essential role they will play in this country’s recovery – Michelle Donelan
“Our priority from the very start of this pandemic has been to help students complete their courses and graduate as planned which is why I am pleased that the Prime Minister has today confirmed all remaining students can return to in-person teaching from the 17 May as part of Step 3 of the Government’s road map,” universities minister Michelle Donelan said.
“It is vital that we make every effort to keep us all as safe as possible, and every student will be offered three tests on return to campus. I would strongly encourage students to make use of the free tests available to them.
“To further support those beginning the next chapter in their lives we have published our Graduate Employment and Skills Guide, created with universities and designed with prospective employers in mind, which will give students the help and advice they need to build their skills and kickstart their careers.
“I know that entering the jobs market can be daunting, particularly during a global pandemic, but I know that employers will recognise the resilience and strength of this year’s graduates and the essential role they will play in this country’s recovery.”
‘Universities are ready and prepared to welcome their students back to make the most of this final term’
Responding to today’s news, Dr Greg Walker, chief executive of MillionPlus, the Association for Modern Universities, said:
“Students will welcome this step to allow all of them to return to in-person teaching at their university from next Monday. The enormous efforts made by universities to ensure their campuses are Covid-secure has been instrumental in ensuring that this can happen with appropriate assurance in the remaining weeks of term. This is a remarkable effort from all those concerned.
“The Employment and Skills Guide is a useful resource for students in helping them search for employment at this challenging time, though I hope the government will now consider further steps, such as supported graduate placements and internships to support those students finishing this year. Though we all hope the recovery will be strong and swift, additional public support for graduates will help the country build back better and quicker.”
University Alliance CEO Vanessa Wilson said the news was “welcome and long-awaited”.
She added: “As we know from evidence collated during the course of the pandemic, Covid-secure measures adopted by universities has kept risk of transmission on campus low. We have been calling for this return for many months, and our member universities are ready and prepared to welcome their students back to make the most of this final term and to help power the nation’s recovery from the pandemic.”
In early April, vice-chancellors reacted with dismay when the government declined to give the green light to in-person teaching for all students from 12 April.