End of university Covid restrictions still under review, Donelan says

Michelle Donelan said universities would have one week’s notice before restarting in-person teaching, but 12 April is now four working days away

Universities minister Michelle Donelan has said the government is yet to decide when universities can restart face-to-face teaching on campus. 

The government has permitted students of key vocational disciplines, like healthcare and teaching, and those on practical or practice-based subjects, like laboratory-based sciences and performing arts, to return to HE campuses. 

The government provisionally told universities it would review further extensions after the Easter holidays. 

Monday 5 April, the Easter bank holiday, marks the one-week cut-off point for universities to reopen on 12 April. There are, though, only four working days before the date universities had hoped to restart all face-to-face teaching.

Universities UK (UUK) estimates that a half of students – approximately 1 million learners – do not have any indication of when they can go back.

Speaking at a Ucas Annual Admissions Conference, Ms Donelan confirmed the decision was still under consideration. “We are currently reviewing the data and we will get those remaining students back as soon as we possibly can, based on the data and the latest advice and we’ll give at least one week’s notice.” 

Donelan said she had spoken to students that are studying at university. “They’ve expressed to me just how happy they are to be back at university, and back to face to face teaching.

“Now I know the remaining students who are not yet back are also eager to return and I get and appreciate just how hard it is for them.” 

UUK said “concerns are growing that the next stage of student returns will be delayed until 17 May at the earliest”.

University and student union leaders this week wrote to the prime minister to call for a return to in-person teaching from 12 April.

The open letter – organised by University Alliance (UA), which represents professional and technical universities – was signed by 40 chancellors, chairs of governing bodies, vice-chancellors and student union presidents.

It follows last week’s statement by Universities UK, which also asked the government to allow a 12 April return to campus for all students.

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