Uni return date a ‘crushing decision for our students’
Universities in the West say it is a “real pity” thousands of students will not be allowed back until after 17 May.
Since the start of the year, only students on hands-on courses have been allowed in-person teaching.
Universities Minister Michelle Donelan said it was a “cautious approach” to the easing of restrictions.
But Gloucestershire University said it did not “understand the need for delay” while the University of the West of England described it as a “crushing decision”.
On Tuesday, the government announced that students on all university courses in England would return “no earlier than 17 May”.
Ms. Donelan, in a written statement, said “the movement of students across the country poses a risk for the transmission of the virus”.
But Stephen Marston, vice-chancellor of the University of Gloucestershire, said it did not “understand the rationale” of keeping restrictions on campuses when shops were open.
“Our students can go to a whole range of venues but they can’t come to university,” he said.
“We don’t really understand the need for this delay.”
He said, “most of our students” on practical and creative courses were able to return in March.
“We’re now almost a month on from that and there is no evidence of significant virus transmission,” he said,
“Now we’ve shown that we can do that safely – why not let the rest come back?”
The University of the West of England’s vice-chancellor, Steve West, said it was a “crushing decision for our students”.
“I still have a difficulty in understanding the evidence base upon which it’s OK to have half but not all students,” he said.
While David Ion, from the University of Bristol, said students were “crying out for in-person teaching”.
“It’s just a bit relentless being trapped in your bedroom, every day, on Zoom,” he said.
Jenny Sherrard, from the UCU lecturers’ union, said restarting in-person teaching in mid-May “makes absolutely no sense”.
“Most courses have already finished and students would really be there more for the experiential side than the learning side,” she said.