Frustration as government 'finally' gives all students green light to return to campus, says Yorkshire university chief

A university leader in Yorkshire has criticised the Government after it confirms that all students will be allowed to return to campus for in person teaching on May 17.

Roughly half of university students – those doing practical courses – have already returned to in-person teaching.

But the Government confirmed today, May 10, all university students who haven’t yet returned to campus and in-person teaching will be able to from Monday 17 May.

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The Government has confirmed all students will be allowed to return to campus for in person teaching on May 17. Photo credit: Getty Images

As part of the Government’s announcement all returning students are encouraged to take a test either through home or community testing at least one day before they travel back to their term time accommodation.

And upon arrival at their term time accommodation, all students and staff will be encouraged to take three supervised Lateral Flow Devices (LFD) tests three-four days apart at an on-campus asymptomatic testing site, and will be expected to be tested two times a week throughout the rest of the summer term.

While ‘finally’ welcoming the return of all students back to campus Dr Peter O’Brien, executive director of Yorkshire Universities, a group representing 12 institutions in the region, said there was a huge sense of “disappointment” from institutes across the region.

He highlighted that although universities including Oxford and Cambridge will continue teaching past the date, many in Yorkshire and the Humber will have already finished for the academic year.

Dr Peter O’Brien, executive director of Yorkshire Universities, a group representing 12 institutions in the region. Photo credit: Submitted picture

He told The Yorkshire Post: “There is a sense of disappointment and frustration.

“There is particularly a sense of frustration for many students - because by 17 May a lot of their teaching would have ended by then.

“This may be appropriate and suitable for some universities elsewhere in the country but it might not be suitable for our universities in Yorkshire.”

Dr O’Brien added the government has consistently disregarded the needs of university staff and students throughout this pandemic and as part of the easing of lockdown restrictions, treating them as an afterthought at best.

Pictured mass testing of students for Covid 19 at the Allam Centre, at the University of Hull in January this year. A higher education leader in the region has stressed universities across the UK have spent millions of pounds on making their campuses ‘Covid-secure’ and could have safely opened sooner to students. Photo credit: Simon Hulme/JPIMedia

He said: “As the road-map rolled out there was concern that with some of the easing of restrictions - in person teaching could not take place sooner.

“Again there was a sense of frustration - I know there was. There were cases and arguments put forward to national government, MPs, and to anyone who would listen.”

He stressed that universities across the UK spent millions of pounds on making their campuses ‘Covid-secure’ and could have safely opened sooner to students.

Dr O’Brien said: “Without question we could have opened sooner with testing, we’ve proven in the run up to Christmas with testing done there it was working efficiently.

“Universities also really stood up there and ran testing centres and in some cases were supporting local authorities through community testing.”

He added delays to students returning to campus had led to a "detrimental” effect to young people.

“Health and wellbeing has really suffered without a question,” Dr O’Brien said. “There is a real concern about the damage over the past 14 months."

The Yorkshire Post also approached all universities across Yorkshire and the Humber for comment.

Universities Minister Michelle Donelan said: “Our priority from the very start of this pandemic has been to help students complete their courses and graduate as planned.

“It is vital that we make every effort to keep us all as safe as possible, and every student will be offered three tests on return to campus. I would strongly encourage students to make use of the free tests available to them. "

The Government added to further support those beginning the "next chapter in their lives" of university students a Graduate Employment and Skills Guide has been created with universities and designed with prospective employers in mind, which will give students the help and advice they need to build their skills and "kickstart their careers".

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