The government announced today that, in most cases, students won’t be allowed to return to university until the 8th March at the earliest, ‘given the ongoing national restrictions’. Under previous guidance, it was outlined that students ‘should remain where they are wherever possible’ until ‘at least mid-February’.
While Cambridge University announced, on the 6th January, that (with a few exceptions) they had taken the ‘decision to move all teaching and learning for undergraduate and postgraduate students online for the entirety of Lent term’, they didn’t state that students wouldn’t be able to return to Cambridge when permitted under government guidance.
TCS understands that some colleges had been planning to allow students to return in mid-February if allowed by the government.
Given that Lent term ends on the 19th March, it now seems increasingly unlikely that (most) students will be allowed to return to their University accommodation this term.
The government explained that it has taken this decision as ‘the mass movement of students across the country poses a risk for the transmission of the virus – particularly because of the higher transmissibility of the new strain – between areas’.
The renewed guidance still allows for exceptions ‘for courses which are most important to be delivered in-person in order to support the pipeline of future critical workers’. This means that clinical Medical, clinical Veterinary, and PGCE students will still be able to participate in face-to-face teaching.
It is also detailed that universities should still support ‘the return of students in exceptional circumstances, for example, where students do not have access to appropriate alternative accommodation, facilities, or study space, or where students need to return for health or safety reasons.’
The new guidance further emphasised that universities may consider opening ‘libraries and specialist collections, for both studying and borrowing materials, on an essential access only basis’, as well as ‘study spaces and practice areas’. As such, Cambridge University’s decision to close the UL and faculty libraries as study spaces continues to be unnecessary under government guidance, while Colleges have taken varying decisions regarding opening study spaces for their students in residence.
TCS has contacted the University for comment.
The new government guidance is available here.