Around 40 universities across the UK have now reported cases of the coronavirus and thousands of students are self-isolating as the new term begins.
Health Minister Helen Whately said “it must be really tough” for the students, but they wanted the epidemics to be “under control”.
Universities are working hard to be able to resume face-to-face learning, the health minister said.
But some students wondered why they were told to leave home when most of the teaching was done remotely.
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On whether the students could go home for Christmas at the end of the term, Ms Whately said talking about this was’ a bit of free time, ‘she said, adding:’ It’s it is up to all of us to master this in order to spend Christmas with our families. ”
Labor has called on the government to consider suspending return to universities after the Covid epidemics forced thousands of students to self-isolate in their housing.
Meanwhile, more than 10 million people have downloaded the NHS Covid-19 app since it launched on Thursday, the health secretary said.
Universities affected by coronavirus cases include:
- Manchester Metropolitan University – where around 1,700 students were asked to self-isolate for a fortnight after 127 tested positive for the virus
- University of Glasgow – where 600 students were asked to self-isolate after 172 positive tests
- Queen’s University Belfast – Some students have been told to self-isolate after ‘small number’ tested positive
- The University of Exeter, which also reported a “small” number of cases
Labor shadowy education secretary Kate Green said the option of tuition discounts should be kept “absolutely on the table.”
She told the BBC that she understood that students might feel that if they don’t use their accommodation or “don’t get the education they expected, they’ve paid a pretty substantial fee for it.” “, But admitted that many universities were” in very difficult financial circumstances. . ”
Ms Green said there are many factors to take into account to ensure that students receive the highest quality education possible, “including keeping the option of discounts absolutely on the table.”
Nicola Dandridge, of the Students’ Office, said students “have legal rights” but tuition reimbursement is “a matter for the government”.
“If students feel that they are not getting what they have been offered, they should definitely talk to their university about it and they also have the right to complain to the university mediator,” she said. told BBC Radio 4 Today.
Joe Ward is a student at Manchester Metropolitan University – where students have said they have been prevented from leaving their homes by security officials and police. Now all freshmen and core students will be taught online for two weeks.
“If I had been made aware that things would turn out like this and that things would only be online, I certainly would have reconsidered going to college this year,” said Joe, who shares an apartment. with seven other people, to BBC News.
“I would really like to think that there could be some kind of compensation, but at the same time I understand that for the university, it is also quite difficult for them, it is very new for them too.
“It’s difficult for both sides but we would definitely appreciate a little more communication, which is starting to be felt now but it’s only the first few days. ”
Her roommate Natasha Kutscheruk said the initial lockdown “caused a lot of panic”, saying the university “should have been prepared and organized before sending an email saying we are stranded”.
There have so far been outbreaks of Covid at around 40 universities across the UK – and there is every chance that number will increase as more universities enter the mandate.
It’s not exactly the college experience the students envisioned.
The early years may be concerned about moving away from home, but now they may also worry that they will not be able to return, if they find themselves in an epidemic and are forced to self-isolate.
They’ve been promised a mix of face-to-face and online teaching – but the balance seems to shift more towards online classes.
That means even less time in person with other students and staff and more hours locked in their rooms with online recordings and academic versions of Zoom meetings.
Universities are stuck in their own corner. They are under pressure from professors to move on to all online teaching and bring students home, rather than creating a loop on the Covid epidemics.
But that would cause angry claims for accommodation and fees.
Universities cherish their autonomy, but in this case, they may feel like they are waiting for someone else to make a decision for them.
Larissa Kennedy, president of the National Students Union, said the union had “long called for e-learning to be the default method.”
” And [students’] the quality of learning is seriously affected, so we also need to see the tuition fees reimbursed, ”she said.
Minister Whatley said universities are “working very hard” so that students can “return to the combination” of online and face-to-face learning and social distance socialization.
In Scotland, in addition to the University of Glasgow, students have been affected in Dundee, Edinburgh and Aberdeen.
Coronavirus restrictions in Scotland currently prohibit people from visiting other households in their homes – meaning students cannot return home to another address in Scotland from university accommodation for a short stay without a reasonable excuse, such as a family emergency.
However, new guidelines issued by the Scottish government specify that students can return home for the long term.
Students who have been told to self-isolate can return home if they need support to do so, including physical, financial or mental health support.
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