Michelle Donelan, the Universities Minister, has released a letter to universities in England with new instructions for returning to university next term, stating that “we will shortly be updating the Spring 2021 guidance to reflect the decisions set out below”.

In the letter, the students who are able to return in the first tranche (from 4 January) are restricted to Medicine (and subjects allied to medicine or health), Dentistry, Veterinary Science, Education (in particular, initial teacher training), Social Work and courses which require Professional, Statutory and Regulatory Body (PSRB) assessments or activity which is scheduled for January and cannot be postponed.

Donelan continues that “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 25 January. The government will review this decision and provide further communication to providers in the week commencing 18 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. We will work with the Office for Students and the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education to discuss the impact of these measures”.

However, Donelan also stressed the importance of ensuring that “those students who have remained at university or who have compelling reasons to return are given appropriate support and access to study space”. Appropriate reasons for return cited within the letter include international students without alternative accommodation, students without access to study space or appropriate facilities in their vacation or home accommodation, students who remained in their university accommodation over the winter break, those requiring additional support (including for reasons regarding mental health) and those on placements.

Cherwell has contacted the University for comment to discover how this will impact Hilary returns. Previous college policies can be found here.

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