Covid: some students will not be back before the next February term

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By Sean Coughlan
BBC News Family and Education Correspondent

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image copyrightReuters

legendStudents took Covid tests this week before leaving for Christmas

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Students will have staggered start dates to return to English universities after Christmas – some will not return until February 7.
The government’s plan will mean that students will take hands-on classes such as medicine or the performing arts back from January 4-18.
Other subjects would be taught online at the start of the term, with students returning between January 25 and February 7.
Students are promised Covid tests when they return the following term.
This means that some students who will be returning home in the next few days will not be in college for nine weeks.
The National Student Union said students should always pay rent on “properties they are told not to live in.”

Practical courses

The plan, to avoid a surge of students and the risk of the coronavirus spreading, will see a phased return for students over five weeks in the new year – with most courses starting online before returning to teaching in no one.

  • Mass tests for students begin at universities

  • Two Covid tests for students then leave in 24 hours
  • Test for the Christmas holidays from November 30

The first returning students will take hands-on courses that are difficult to teach only online – which will include medicine, nursing and dentistry; the sciences that need to use laboratories; or music, dance and theater.

image copyrightJoe Giddens
legendClasses will be online at the start of the next term for many students
Those who start later will include topics such as English Literature, History, and Mathematics.
Students will be offered two side-flow Covid tests upon their return – similar to the process for their departure.
“This plan will allow a safer return for all students,” said Universities Minister Michelle Donelan, who also announced a £ 20 million fund for struggling students.
The UCU faculty union, which has called for education to be online to prevent the spread of infection, said plan for a delayed start of in-person education was a “step forward” .
Vanessa Wilson, head of the University Alliance group, praised the “clarity” about the next quarter – and also the recognition that campus facilities should remain open for students who do not return home over Christmas.
Emma Hardy, shadow minister of Labor Universities, said that “the delay in providing this advice has caused enormous and unnecessary stress for students and universities”.

Coaches and time slots for the exodus of students

The arrangements were announced on the eve of the possibility for students to return home for Christmas – with the “travel window” opening for students on Thursday.
Louis
legendLouis will be part of the logistical challenge to bring the students home this week
Louis Chambers, a first year studying geology at the University of Hull, will be among the students returning home this week.
HI’s parents are coming to take him back to Norfolk – and the university runs a system of one-hour slots for students to pick up, which he says will mean ‘fewer people leaving at once’.
“It will be a relief to return home,” he says, as he has only been able to see his family once this quarter, due to Covid restrictions.
But he thinks the Covid testing and the ‘travel window’ haven’t been complicated so far – and he’s enjoyed his first tenure.
And many students will already be gone. Of the six in Louis’ apartment, he says, three have already returned home.
A woman waits at a train platformimage copyrightGetty Images
legendThe “window” for students to return home begins Thursday
University of Hull’s director of student services, Anji Gardiner, organized the staggered departures through the Christmas “travel window”.
In addition to slots for those who are picked up by car – which run from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. – coaches are made available and a reservation system for the limited capacity of the trains, the number of trips being spread over the week.
“We want to keep it safe – we didn’t want people trying to get home,” says Dr. Gardiner.

Mass tests before Christmas

Mass student Covid testing began Monday at universities – with temporary testing centers set up in gyms and campus halls.
Saint Andrewimage copyrightJane Barlow
Before leaving for Christmas, students were encouraged to take two tests three days apart – and travel within 24 hours of receiving a second negative result.
The “travel window,” in which students are expected to leave the university, will run from December 3-9.
In England, around 1.2 million students will travel from a university to a home address in another part of the country, including:
  • 235,000 leaving the south-east
  • 217,000 departing from London
  • 126,000 leaving the East Midlands
  • 122,000 leaving the West Midlands
  • 119,000 leaving the North West
  • 110,000 leaving the southwest
  • 88,000 leaving the East
  • 64,000 leaving the northeast
Universities UK welcomed plans for additional testing for students upon their return after Christmas.
“The high demand for testing from students shows that they understand the important role testing can play in ensuring their safety and that of their communities,” a spokesperson said.

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