Responding to the Secretary of State for Education Gavin Williamson's latest announcement on the return of students to universities in January 2021, Alistair Jarvis, Chief Executive of Universities UK, said:
We fully appreciate the public health situation has changed quite dramatically in a very short period of time, and it is therefore right that government and universities should look again at plans for the start of the spring term.
For universities, the safety and wellbeing of students and staff is the priority and the sector will implement the new restrictions for England announced by the UK government with fewer students returning for face-to-face teaching, practicals and placements in early January. Our immediate focus will be communicating with students with as much information as we can, as soon as we can, and reassuring them that universities will be there to support them and provide high-quality online teaching and learning until they can return to campus. Since the start of the pandemic, UK universities have proved to be extremely agile in reacting to the latest government and public health advice, while doing all they can to keep research going and students progressing – and the sector will once again manage these latest changes.
Today's announcement will understandably raise further issues and uncertainty – for students, universities and staff – which will need to be addressed by government over the coming weeks, including the need for financial support, regulatory flexibility and assessment changes.