Lent Term return to be delayed for most students

Louis Mian 31 December 2020
Image Credits: The Independent

The government announced yesterday (30th December) changed plans for students returning to university for Lent term [1]. With some exceptions, students will not be returning until at least the week commencing 25th January.

This will mean that the university’s current plans will have to be changed, under which it was stated that ‘undergraduate and postgraduate taught students who have not already returned to Cambridge are encouraged to do so during the weekend of 16th and 17th January’.

It is understood that two crucial meetings are taking place in the university today to consider the implications of this new government guidance.

A letter from the Universities Minister, Michelle Donelan, has asked higher education providers ‘to restrict the number of practical students returning from 4th January to those who are reading subjects in the following subject areas:

–       Medicine & dentistry

–       Subjects allied to medicine/health

–       Veterinary science

–       Education (initial teacher training)

–       Social work

–       Courses which require Professional, Statutory and Regulatory Body (PSRB) assessments and or mandatory activity which is scheduled for January and which cannot be rescheduled’

‘All remaining courses should continue to be offered online from the beginning of term. Given the rising infection rates, the return of all other students should be paused until at least the week commencing 25th January,’ Donelan stated.

‘The government will review this decision and provide further communication to providers in the week commencing 18th January.’

‘On the basis of this review, we will ask providers to plan for the staggered return of further students, prioritising those who will most benefit from in-person provision.’

‘All students should be encouraged to remain in their vacation accommodation until the resumption of their face-to-face teaching, wherever possible, to minimise travel over the next few crucial weeks.’

The government’s advice ‘for international students travelling from overseas for the Spring term is to consider whether they in fact need to travel to the UK at this time, particularly if their course does not require them to be on campus from 4th January.’

‘Those students should consider delaying if travel arrangements can be rearranged without undue costs,’ the letter continued.

Donelan explained that ‘following rising cases of coronavirus (Covid-19) across parts of England, early and concerning evidence on a new variant and the extension of Tier 4 restrictions to a number of regions of the country, we must consider whether there is a need to take further steps to reduce transmission in education settings.’

Arrangements for asymptomatic testing ‘should be in place for all students, as well as staff, on arrival at university and we have been working with you to ensure testing is available.’

Donelan also asked that higher education providers ‘pay particular regard to the specific needs of certain groups during this period, including care leavers, estranged students and international students, who will require access to welfare and mental health support and essential services.’

The university has been reached out to for comment and it is expected that they will update their guidance for returning in lent term over the next few days.


[1] https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/948669/Letter_from_Michelle_Donelan_to_higher_education_providers_.pdf