Medicine, education and social work back to campus on 4 January

Rest of students’ return to English universities should be staggered from 25 January, while international students asked to reconsider urgency of need to travel to UK

December 31, 2020
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The Westminster government has released its list of subjects that should have students back on campus from 4 January, with the return of most students to English campuses now needing to be staggered from 25 January.

In a letter to higher education providers on 30 December, the country’s universities minister, Michelle Donelan, says only those studying medicine and dentistry, subjects allied to health, veterinary science, education (initial teacher training), social work and courses that require professional, statutory and regulatory body assessments or a mandatory activity that cannot be rescheduled will be allowed to return to campus from 4 January.

Previously, the government had recommended that a wider range of practical subjects be allowed back on campuses between 4 and 18 January. These included scientific or technology subjects that require time in laboratories, architecture and planning, art and design and music, dance, drama and the performing arts.

Students pursuing those subjects not on the latest list should be offered teaching online from the beginning of term until 25 January, alongside all other students, the government advised.

In her letter, Ms Donelan says everyone else’s return should be staggered, “prioritising those who will most benefit from in-person provision”, meaning some students might not return until well into February.

The government will reassess the situation and provide more information to institutions “in the week commencing 18 January”, she explains.

The higher education minister also asked international students planning to travel to attend the spring term to “consider whether they in fact need to travel to the UK at this time, particularly if their course does not require them to be on campus from 4 January”.

Ms Donelan said it was “not a decision we have taken lightly, but it is a necessary step given the rates of transmission across England”.

“We appreciate that many providers have already had to compress practical elements of teaching in the autumn term (in part because of the ‘student travel window’ in December), and we are acutely aware of the challenges that this poses to both providers and students,” she writes. “However, in these challenging times we must continue to adapt to put in place strengthened measures to reduce transmission rates across the country, whilst maintaining our commitment to education.”

The letter also encourages providers to ensure that students who have remained at university or “who have compelling reasons to return are given appropriate support and access to study space”.

This includes international students who have had to stay in the UK over the Christmas period, students who lack adequate study space in their accommodation and those requiring additional support, such as mental health support.

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