Europe

When will universities reopen?

Boris Johnson promises 'light ahead' as he plans to lift lockdown

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Boris Johnson announced the stages of his long-awaited lockdown roadmap on Monday. After almost a year of lockdown, many university students were eager to find out when they will be allowed to return to in-person teaching after months of virtual lectures. The roadmap plan has now outlined a date some university pupils could be able to return this year.

When will universities reopen?

The Government is planning to allow all pupils to return to school and colleges from March 8, if the data allows it.

This week it was also announced university students on practical courses can return to university campuses for in-person teaching from this date.

This includes university pupils on courses such as science, who may need to access university facilities or specific equipment.

If necessary, the Government roadmap explains libraries and research labs can also be kept open if they are required.

Like schools and other settings, universities will also have access to twice-weekly coronavirus testing for pupils on-site, to help isolate cases of the virus and reduce transmission.

Although pupils may soon be able to return to education settings, the Government has reiterated the importance of students sticking to social distancing measures at this time.

Students on campus will need to wear face coverings and avoid any large gatherings outside of the lockdown rules.

Boris Johnson said last year: “My message to students is simple.

“Please, for the sake of your education, for your parents’ and your grandparents’ health, wash your hands, cover your face, make space, and don’t socially gather in groups of more than six now and when term starts.”

A review is due by the end of the Easter holidays on whether all remaining university students can return to campus.

The Government is aiming to offer a week’s notice before all pupils can return to their universities in person.

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How has the news been received by universities?

The news that university students will soon be able to return to their studies has been met warmly by some university bodies.

Professor Julia Buckingham, president of Universities UK, which represents 140 universities in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, said the announcement was a “long-awaited boost” for university students.

She said: “Universities look forward to welcoming these students back to Covid-secure campuses from March 8, where safety measures including serial asymptomatic testing and social distancing will be in place to ensure the risk of transmission remains low.

“While today’s news is positive for some students, it will be disappointing for others that had hoped the Government would have allowed them to return.

“There will also need to be a further focus on supporting students’ mental health and wellbeing in the weeks ahead.”

However, there are still some concerns about the risk of Covid cases rising if students return to campus.

Trade union University and College Union (UCU) accepted that some courses needed in-person learning, but the union cautioned for teaching to remain online wherever possible.

UCU general secretary Jo Grady said: “Pushing students and staff back onsite increases the risk of more Covid outbreaks and threatens to undo the country’s hard work to get infection rates down.”

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