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The Government has finally outlined its plan for England’s student population prior to the mass exodus from university campuses to parental homes in time for Christmas. Students are currently not allowed to move homes in England due to the current lockdown, due to end on December 2.
There has long been speculation about how the Government will manage the migration of students come Christmas time, with many families worried they will not be reunited in time.
Students across the country have been dealt an unfair hand throughout the coronavirus crisis.
Forced into online learning back in March, new and returning students at UK universities were promised hybrid teaching for the remainder of their degrees starting in the autumn term.
However, thousands of students have complained and refused to pay fees as their courses have moved online, while still paying full price for courses and rent at often extortionately priced university accommodation.
When can students travel home for Christmas?
The Government has given England’s students a six-day window between December 3 and 9 to allow families to reunite for Christmas.
English universities have been ordered to stop in-person teaching and go online by December 3 so students can use the window to travel.
The buck has fallen to the universities to decide when students will be able to travel, with staggered timetables for when students can travel expected to be rolled out.
Guidance due to be issued by the Department for Education will also include a mass testing programme, with tests offered to as many students as possible before they leave.
If a student receives a positive test before the permitted travel window, they will have time to self isolate in their accommodation and still have time to get home in time for the festivities.
Universities in areas of higher COVID prevalence will be prioritised.
Universities minister Michelle Donelan admitted students had experienced a “hellish time” and “very difficult” term since returning in September and October.
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She told Sky News: “We made a commitment that they could be able to go home for Christmas in the safest way as possible for both their communities and families.
“We’ve now got this four-week period of national restrictions and, at the end of it students will pose a much-reduced risk to their families, loved ones and communities.”
Ms Donelan also said the Government would be “complementing” the student travel window with a programme of testing.
“We’re targeting that testing in some of the most highest-risk areas and universities that are highest risk.
“And also looking at those student percentages who are most vulnerable, for example BAME students.
“That is one element of this strategy, you can never eliminate the risk – we’re in the midst of a pandemic – what we’re doing is trying to manage that risk, reduce it and give students the confidence to go home.”
Elsewhere, Scotland’s 65,000 strong student population is expected to be asked to take two COVID tests five days apart.
If both tests are negative, the student will be permitted to travel home.
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