University Campuses In England ‘Won't Reopen Until Mid-May’ | TOTUM
Ben Hayward April 12th
2021

Ministers are set to confirm that university campuses in England will not reopen until mid-May at the earliest.

With schools and colleges now open for face-to-face teaching, the delay to campus reopening will further frustrate students who have already missed out large parts of their education while still footing both tuition and accommodation costs in many cases. 

According to the Guardian, university leaders were hoping to persuade the government to ease the restrictions on higher education in line with the reopening of pubs, non-essential retail and salons this week.

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However, it’s understood that ministers rejected the request, instead favouring a later return which will see the vast majority of students unable to return to campuses before May 17th, when most universities will have already finished their teaching year.

Writing to Boris Johnson, Professor Julia Buckingham, the president of Universities UK, said it was ‘illogical’ to open shops, personal care businesses, gyms, spas, zoos, theme parks, public libraries and community centres yet prevent students from returning to their studies.

Prof Buckingham said: “This is another blow for those students who have been studying online since early December, and you will be aware of many studies highlighting the impact on students’ mental health, wellbeing and development.”

Hillary Gyebi-Ababio, the National Union of Students vice-president for higher education, said: “Students have missed out not just on huge swathes of education and hands-on experience this year, but on huge parts of campus life, on top of now learning from cramped homes and bedrooms.”

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Sir David Bell, the vice-chancellor of Sunderland University, said if confirmed, a delay until May 17th was 'deeply disappointing and, frankly bizarre'.

Sir David added: "I support very strongly the reopening of pubs, shops and hairdressers, many of which will be used by students. But then to deny the very same students the right to continue their studies on campus points to incoherence of decision making at the very heart of government.”

Students who feel their experience has been unacceptable can seek the Office of the Independent Adjudicator, who published example case studies suggesting students could be offered refunds even when not legally required to do so, although universities are said to be worried that a large volume of successful claims could threaten their finances.

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The Department for Education was unable to confirm arrangements for universities to reopen, with a spokesperson previously saying: “Students on practical and creative courses started returning from 8 March, and we will be reviewing options for the timing of the return of all remaining students by the end of the Easter holidays.

“Decisions will take into account the need to protect progress across the wider roadmap out of the pandemic, including the spread of the virus in communities and pressures on the NHS.”

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