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Universities: Coronavirus

Question for Department for Education

UIN HL7997, tabled on 9 September 2020

To ask Her Majesty's Government what discussions they have had with universities about the steps which can be taken to prevent new outbreaks of COVID-19 when students return home.

Answered on

23 September 2020

The government is doing all that it can to minimise the risks to higher education staff and students and the wider community.

The Department for Education is in frequent contact with representatives of the higher education sector, having regular interactions at both official and ministerial level with key parties, including Universities UK and the Office for Students.

In August, we established a higher education taskforce comprising sector representatives including Universities and Colleges Admissions Service, Universities UK, and vice-chancellors, and chaired by my hon. Friend, the Minister of State for Universities. We have been able to use these discussions to ensure that feedback from the sector has been included in both our higher education guidance and our communications campaign, helping to ensure that students can return and remain on campuses in a secure environment.

Universities have been working very hard to ensure that students can return safely, and they have put in place a wide range of measures to reduce the transmission of COVID-19. This includes considering ways to relieve pressure on public transport, adopting staggered openings, timetabling changes, and a blended mix of online and face-to-face teaching in smaller groups, following basic guidance on social distancing while living and moving round and maintaining good hand and respiratory hygiene.

To help higher education providers make informed decisions about their provision, we have updated our guidance on reopening higher education buildings and campuses to reflect the latest public health advice, including on face coverings, local lockdowns, and test and trace.

We will continue to work closely with the sector, with Public Health England, and across the government to help minimise the risk of COVID-19 and to help higher education providers put in place measures that apply in their particular circumstances.