Universities gear up to support students at Christmas

21 December 2020

Students at Russell Group universities across the UK will be helped over the Christmas period with a range of support and social activities to deliver some festive fun.

Christmas will be different for everyone this year as the country responds to the measures put in place to control the Covid-19 pandemic. While it is not unusual for universities to host students over Christmas – international students or care leavers often stay in term time accommodation – campuses are gearing up for bigger numbers than usual.

Russell Group universities have been at the forefront of the fight against the pandemic, leading the development of a new vaccine, boosting the UK’s testing capability through the Lighthouse Labs programme and supporting the NHS with equipment as well as expertise.

Alongside this, Russell Group universities are continuing to support the national Covid-19 effort with many offering their facilities to Government to set up vaccination centres as the NHS rolls out one of the biggest mass vaccination programmes in years. Queen Mary University London and the University of Nottingham are among those who have helped.

They have also worked hard to prioritise education and student wellbeing with millions invested in new and innovative blended learning programmes, as well as an unprecedented effort to support students and provide as fulfilling a campus experience as possible.

As part of that and in response to the measures put in place by Government, universities have prepared to host larger numbers of students than usual this Christmas, including those who may have to self-isolate or quarantine on arrival from overseas.

Some of the measures put in place by Russell Group Universities include

  • A wealth of online or in person social activities delivered in a Covid-secure way to ensure no one feels isolated or alone. At the London School of Economics students can sign up for online team games or screenings of theatre performances followed by a chance to discuss them in a virtual theatre bar. Queen Mary University London is offering outdoor bootcamps to keep students active and a Secret Santa initiative.
  • Student unions have rallied round to raise money and help. At the University of York, all those who remain on campus will receive a free Christmas hamper, funded by donations from local businesses and the university.
  • Informal buddying programmes pairing students with other students or staff have been set up. At Leeds University, special Christmas groups have been set up on social media channels so people can connect with others at any point. While at Edinburgh University, staff have ‘gifted’ their time to students offering to meet up with them over the festive period for walks or socially distanced outdoor activities to combat loneliness.
  • Continuing to build on the enhanced wellbeing services established by all universities at the start of the academic year, mental health support will always be available. Residential support teams will be available throughout the break. At Newcastle University, there are on-call councillors and 24/7 support services.
  • Support for students from care leaver backgrounds or those without family networks to draw on. At Nottingham University, the East Midlands Conference Centre will be open as a social and study place with planned films and activities including Christmas and New Year’s meals, which will be free for care leavers.
  • Universities will also be keeping wider campus facilities open during the Christmas period. At Queen’s University Belfast, campus safety teams, and accommodation staff will be available to students, while the university’s library will be open every day, except for public holidays.

Dr Tim Bradshaw, CEO of the Russell Group, said:

“Across the country, everyone is preparing for a Christmas that won’t be like normal. However since September I have been impressed by the way staff and students have responded to a uniquely difficult set of circumstances. 

“The effort that has gone into the arrangements for Christmas across our universities underlines the determination of dedicated and hard working staff to provide the best possible experience for students, who should also receive lots of credit to the way they have engaged with new ways of learning and following Government guidance.

“Supporting students over Christmas isn’t a new thing for universities but this year the nature of that job has changed and increased. Our members have stepped up in response to do everything they can to make this break as enjoyable as possible.”


Policy area

Related case studies

Media Enquiries
Policy Enquiries

Follow us on Twitter