UEA urges 'clarity' as university leaders fear student return delay

University of East Anglia students are being offered free exercise equipment to promote physical act

University of East Anglia students are being offered free exercise equipment to promote physical activity during the second lockdown. Picture: UEA - Credit: Supplied

The University of East Anglia has called for clarity as soon as possible about when students can return - as leaders fear delays could mean young people do not come back to campus until mid-May. 

The organisation which represents vice-chancellors, says institutions want students back on campus "as soon as possible after Easter" but fear this could be delayed to May 17.

The majority of students in England - apart from those on critical courses - were told to not return to campus in January. Those on practical courses which require specialist equipment or facilities began receiving face-to-face lectures from March 8.

University leaders argue that a return to campus on April 12 would benefit students' mental health and development after months of remote learning.

Professor Julia Buckingham, president of Universities UK (UUK), said: "University students have been extremely tolerant in the face of huge disruption and a radically different experience this year, and have willingly made sacrifices in the interests of public safety. But the Government must not take their resilience for granted.

"Universities are fully prepared and looking forward to welcoming students back to Covid-secure environments as soon as possible after Easter, with a variety of enriching activities on offer including in-person teaching, access to study spaces, studios and sports facilities, alongside additional support and catch-up programmes for those due to graduate this year."

She added that universities had proven the safety measures put in place - including asymptomatic testing and face coverings - have enabled "effective management of the virus" on campuses.

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A spokesman for UEA said: “Along with other higher education institutions we are currently awaiting further guidance from the Universities Minister which will help to inform our decisions on the return to campus after the Easter break.

"This has been an unprecedented year and UEA remains committed to supporting our students to study effectively be that online or face to face.

“Needless to say the sooner there is clarity for our students the better and our focus remains on ensuring students know what support there is both now and when the government guidance is published.”

A Department for Education spokesperson said: "Decisions will take into account the need to protect progress across the wider road map out of the pandemic, including the spread of the virus in communities and pressures on the NHS."