A further £15 million will be added to the existing £70 million hardship fund for university students facing financial difficulties amidst the pandemicDom Fou/Unsplash

University campuses will not be permitted to reopen and teaching will continue to take place online until May 17, with students continuing to live where they are at present until the third stage of the Government’s roadmap for the lifting of the UK lockdown comes into effect, Universities Minister Michelle Donelan said in a statement in Parliament yesterday (13/04).

The third stage of the roadmap will encompass a range of further restriction easings, including the lifting of the majority of social contact rules except in the case of gatherings of over 30 people, which will remain illegal, as well as the reopening of indoor hospitality and entertainment venues such as cinemas, and indoor adult group sports and exercise classes.

The delay was described as “hugely disappointing” by Universities UK, while Michelle Donelan, in a written statement, said the timing was a “cautious approach to the easing of restrictions.”

Donelan cited the fact that “the movement of students across the country poses a risk for the transmission of the virus” as a factor contributing to the delay.

The UCU is reported to have supported the delay, and to have called for courses to remain online until the autumn.

The UCU general secretary, Jo Grady, told the BBC: “restarting in-person activities in mid-May, with only weeks of the academic year left, makes absolutely no sense as most lectures and seminars will already have finished.”

Donelan also reported that the return of university students to their campuses would be supported by twice-weekly asymptomatic tests being supplied to universities to distribute directly to staff and students.

A further £15 million will be added to the existing hardship fund for university students facing financial difficulties, which previously stood at £70 million.


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This comes as Vice-Chancellor Stephen Toope said in an email to students last week that in-person teaching would be “unlikely” before this date.

The email confirmed that return guidance remains the same as previously outlined, with research students and those on practical courses given permission to return, and others able to seek permission on grounds such as health and access to resources.

Returning students are also advised under the guidance to get tested for Covid-19 before they travel to Cambridge, and then again once they have returned, either by participating in weekly pooled screening or where this is not possible, by taking an individual ‘Return to Cambridge’ test, which are available up to and including the week beginning 19 April.

More than seven thousand students across the country have meanwhile signed a parliamentary petition which accuses the government of having “trivialised our education.”