The government should promise college students that they will be able to go home for Christmas, Labor said.
Shadow education secretary Kate Green said it was “unthinkable”
Thousands of students are currently being held in universities across the UK following coronavirus outbreaks.
The Department of Education said it is working closely with universities.
Earlier this week, Health Secretary Matt Hancock refused to rule out banning students from returning home at Christmas, but added, “I don’t want to have such a situation and I sincerely hope we can avoid it.”
He was answering a question about concerns that students were spreading Covid-19, following local outbreaks on campuses.
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About 3,000 students are currently being held in universities from Dundee to Exeter, said Conservative chairman of the Commons’ select committee on education, Robert Halfon.
They include up to 1,700 students from Manchester Metropolitan University, where the students say they were prevented by security guards and police.
Many students expressed concern and confusion at the situation, with one claiming to have been “left completely in the dark”.
In a letter to Secretary of Education Gavin Williamson, Ms Green from Labor accused the government of not having prepared for the likelihood of the virus spreading among students.
“It is deeply distressing that so many now do not get the college experience they deserve and face the frightening prospect of being locked up in their rooms with no chance of making new friends,” he said.
“Universities have done everything possible to prepare for the safe return of students to campus, but the government has failed to do its part.
“You let the young people down with the exam fiasco over the summer, and now many of those same students are being disappointed again. These young people deserve better than your incompetence.”
- Sufficient testing capacity in universities
- All students are given the opportunity to study remotely
- The government should consider delaying the start of the mandate for universities that have yet to return
And as for Christmas, he added that the government must “work with universities to ensure that every student has access to tests to allow for a safe return home.”
Earlier this week, government science adviser Sir Mark Walport warned that students in the virus hotspots may need to stay on campus over the Christmas period.
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‘We had no warning’
Manchester Met said it introduced a 14-day self-isolation period at its accommodation in Birley and Cambridge Halls after 127 students tested positive for the virus.
Joe Byrne, a first year student, said, “We haven’t received any warnings, support or advice from the university about how we get food, etc., and instead we have been left completely in the dark and virtually locked up against our will.” .
Another student, Megan Tingey, said she was not contacted by the university about the block before police showed up outside her quarters.
“It was pretty scary and confusing,” he said. “Nobody really told us much and then the police came with security outside.”
Thousands of other students in England are turning up for the new university semester this weekend, but the big question is whether they should go the other way and study from home.
Is it wise or right for universities to bring back students if they are at increasing risk of being caught up in a Covid epidemic and having to isolate themselves?
Housing blocks, with shared services and full of young people who want to socialize, have already seen a wave of epidemics. So should the brakes be applied to prevent this pattern from repeating itself?
But after recruiting a record number of students and promising them a mix of online and face-to-face teaching, it will be a very embarrassing turn for universities to go back to the academic equivalent of working from home.
And would that mean refunds on housing and university fees?
We are likely to have chaotic days ahead and some big decisions to be made about whether to cut the numbers on campus. And students have to wonder how they went from being locked up at home all summer to now being locked up in college.
In a statement, Manchester Met said it communicated with the students “as soon as possible but it was not possible to give meaningful notice due to the need to implement isolation almost immediately”.
“The communications we sent included details on how to access food and other supplies, and we worked with other partners, including local supermarkets, throughout the day to provide additional support,” the statement said.
“Our security teams will increase patrols to support the lockdown and we will take disciplinary action against any students who have violated the requirements.”
Hundreds of students are also isolating themselves at the University of Glasgow due to two coronavirus clusters.
The university said it would offer a four-week discount on rent to all students in university residences in recognition of the “difficult circumstances” they lived in.
He said those students would also be given £ 50 each to spend on food and that he would invite local mobile food outlets to come to the residences.
Throughout Scotland, students were told not to go to pubs, parties or restaurants on weekends. Scottish universities said students who socialize with anyone outside their family risk losing their place at the university.
A spokesperson for the Department of Education said, “The government is working closely with universities to ensure they are well prepared for student return, and we have published a guide to help them keep students and staff as long as possible. as safe as possible.
“Students should follow the latest health advice, just like the general public, which means they should stay at the university in case they have symptoms, they need to isolate themselves, there are further restrictions imposed locally, or there is an outbreak on campus or in their accommodation.
“We will continue to monitor the situation very closely and follow the advice of Public Health England, adapting policies to best support students and suppliers.”