Response to Government announcement on return of students to in-person teaching

13 April 2021

In response to the Government announcement today (13 April 2021) that university students yet to return to in-person teaching will be able to do so from 17 May 2021 at the earliest, Dr Tim Bradshaw, Chief Executive of the Russell Group, said:

“The Government’s announcement today means that around one million university students will be unable to resume in-person teaching until at least mid-May. This includes students on courses such as business, law, maths, accounting and languages.

“Whilst we recognise the need for caution as lockdown measures are eased, the Government’s decision today is a major blow. It fails to take into account the data which shows the safety of teaching spaces, and the very low infection rates at universities right now, despite the majority of students being on campus. We urge the Government to reconsider its decision to ensure these students are not forgotten and can resume in-person teaching as soon as possible.”

Further info:

  • The Government has said that education is a priority, but the decision today means that students on non-practical courses still do not know when they’ll be able to return to in-person teaching this academic year.
  • This may mean that many students will miss out on co-curricular activities universities have planned for the rest of the year to prepare graduates for the world of work and enable students in all years to build peer networks that are vital for their future success.
  • We are concerned that this decision will also impact on the mental health of students. The most recent ONS Student Insights Survey found that over a quarter (26%) of students reported feeling lonely often or always, compared with 8% of the adult population in Great Britain over a similar period.
  • The pandemic is being managed well on campus – we are not aware of any major outbreaks on university campuses in 2021 despite the majority of students now living in their term-time accommodation.
  • Since the start of March, the University of Cambridge has identified zero true positive cases of Covid among students screened through its asymptomatic testing programme, which 87% of its students have agreed to participate in, and only 8 cases have been confirmed since the start of this term.
  • In the latest week of published data on LFD testing in England (25 March - 31 March), 93,008 tests were conducted in higher education settings and just 63 positive test results were returned (<0.1%).
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