‘No plans’ for vaccine passports on English campuses

Ministers to encourage, not compel, inoculation ahead of return to halls and lectures

August 1, 2021
London, United Kingdom - February 1 2021 People with protective face masks stand next to a COVID-19 Vaccination Centre sign at the Francis Crick Institute in St Pancras.
Source: iStock

The Westminster government has said that it has no plans to require students in English universities to get vaccinated against Covid-19 if they want to attend lectures or live in halls of residence.

Ministers had refused to deny that they were considering demanding vaccine passports on campuses this autumn in a bid to drive up uptake of jabs among young people and prevent coronavirus outbreaks.

The foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, had indicated that a decision would be taken in September, with students getting “advance warning” of any vaccine mandate.

But over the weekend, the Department for Education said that such a plan was not currently under consideration.

“Vaccinations are important in helping to keep higher education settings safe for when students return in the autumn term, and we strongly encourage all students to take up the offer of both vaccine doses,” a DfE spokesperson was quoted as saying.

“The government currently has no plans to require the use of the NHS Covid pass for access to learning; however, universities and FE [further education] colleges are encouraged to promote the offer of the vaccine and should continue to conduct risk assessments for their particular circumstances.”

The BBC reported that concerns had been raised over how universities could police their undergraduates’ vaccination status, and that there were questions about how a vaccine mandate could be squared with a legally binding offer of a university place.

More broadly, there has been growing discontent among Conservative backbenchers over plans to require people to have had two jabs before they can go to nightclubs and other crowded venues.

Universities had apparently been brought into the vaccine mandate plan by Boris Johnson, who was reported to have been “raging” about the relatively low vaccine uptake among young people.

But the University and College Union said the prime minister was “trying to pin the blame on students for not yet taking up a vaccine that they haven’t been prioritised to receive”. Making access to education dependent on taking up a vaccine was “wrong”, said the union’s general secretary, Jo Grady.

Ministers may hope that just the suggestion that vaccinations might have been made mandatory for campus life may have encouraged more students to come forward to get jabbed.

In a joint statement, sector leaders said universities continued “to engage, explain and encourage new and existing students to take up the opportunity to get fully vaccinated as soon as possible”. Pop-up vaccination sites are being set up on campuses over the summer and at the start of the next academic year.

“Young people have made tremendous sacrifices during the pandemic, and evidence suggests that vaccine intent remains high among higher education students,” said the statement, backed by agencies including Universities UK, GuildHE, the Russell Group and MillionPlus.

“We remain confident that the overwhelming majority of students in higher education will take up the opportunity to be vaccinated, and we will continue to take every opportunity to encourage that they do so.”

Hundreds of US universities have made vaccination compulsory if students want to return to campus this autumn. In Israel, which has one of the highest vaccination rates in the world, students must have a Covid “green pass” to attend most in-person classes. This requires them to be fully inoculated or to have recently recovered from coronavirus.


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Reader's comments (4)

What is the government and the University sector afraid of? If other countries can require 'green passes' then why not in the UK? Surely such precautions are in the general interest? Mind you, when you have academic staff who have refused vaccination (I know of at least two) it's hard to make a strong argument that students should be vaccinated compulsorily
Thanks you help me learn Good
Thanks you help me learn Good
I know of vaccinated accademic staff who is against covid passes, covid passports etc (and national ID as well). They live like semi-recluses because they don't feel safe migling with others, but are against any form of ID or pass. The rationale is they don't want to be spyed on and/or controlled by the government. They do have a number of credit cards, debit cards etc. Bank yes. Government no, not even for public health reasons.


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