United Kingdom

University students given all clear to return to lectures for the first time THIS YEAR from May 17

Students at English universities have been given the green light to start attending lectures in person from next week - just weeks before summer term exams are due to take place.

Returning students will be expected to get tested for Covid-19 twice a week throughout the rest of the summer term under plans unveiled by ministers tonight.

The decision came as Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that more indoor mixing and social contact will be able to take place from May 17.

Most students in England, apart from those on critical courses, were told not to travel back to term-time accommodation as part of the third national lockdown announced in January.

Students on practical courses, who require specialist equipment and facilities, began returning to face-to-face teaching on March 8.

But it is estimated that about half of university students have not been eligible to return to in-person lessons.

University leaders have previously criticised the Government for delaying the return of face-to-face lessons for all students until near the end of the academic year, with one vice-chancellor calling the decision 'unfathomable'. 

Students at universities in England have experienced a tumultuous year, with some having to self-isolate in their halls late last year as Covid swept through campuses.

The situation was so bad that Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said some students would have to end their term early and quarantine for two weeks in order to be allowed to go home for Christmas.

Students at universities in England have experienced a tumultuous year, with some having to self-isolate in their halls late last year as Covid swept through campuses. 

The situation was so bad that Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said some students would have to end their term early and quarantine for two weeks in order to be allowed to go home for Christmas. 

Mr Williamson told MPs last September it was 'essential' that measures were put in place to ensure that students can return home for Christmas 'while minimising the risk of transmission'.

'Where there are specific circumstances that warrant it, there may be a requirement for some students to self-isolate at the end of term and we will be working with the sector to ensure this will be possible, including ending in-person learning if that is deemed to be necessary,' he said.

And many students have not returned since the Christmas break, with lessons resuming online where possible. 

Returning students are encouraged to take a test via home or community testing at least one day before they travel back to term-time accommodation.

All students will then be encouraged to take three supervised lateral flow devices (LFD) tests three to four days apart at an asymptomatic testing site on campus, and then they will be expected to be tested two times a week.

Universities minister Michelle Donelan said: '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 May 17 as part of Step 3 of the Government's road map.

'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.'

The Department for Education (DfE) has worked with the Office for Students (OfS) and universities to launch a guide to help students who have graduated during the pandemic to build skills and secure a job.

Ms Donelan added: '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.'

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