The latest Office of National Statistics (ONS) data has shown that 80% of students have returned to their university address in spite of government guidance. The ONS shows that 82% of students were residing at their term-time address in April 2021, with just 36% living with their parents. The number of students living at their university address has increased from 76% in March 2021 when 41% of students reported staying with their parents.
The ONS’ Student COVID-19 Insights Survey (SCIS) measures over 1,400 university students and took place from 15th – 22nd April 2021. The survey began a day after students were told face-to-face teaching could return from 17th May.
Students undertaking practical-based courses, including medicine and creative courses, have been allowed to return to their university addresses as they require face-to-face teaching. Government guidance for universities states that “remaining higher education students can return to in-person teaching and learning, the Government advises that these students can return from 17 May, alongside Step 3 of the Roadmap.”
In a statement on 13th April 2021, Universities Minister, Michelle Donelan, said “students should continue to learn remotely and remain where they are living, wherever possible” until 17th May.
“The movement of students across the country poses a risk for the transmission of the virus – particularly because of the higher prevalence and rates of transmission of new variants.”
Matt Western, the Shadow Universities Minister for the Labour Party said “the Government has treated children and young people as an afterthought throughout this pandemic, and students have been left without information or support.”
Students have been allowed to return prior to this date under “exceptional” circumstances which include having inadequate workspaces at their home addresses and suffering from worsening mental health. The ONS survey found over half (53%) of students felt their mental health worsen from Autumn 2020, though this has decreased from 63%, reported in March.