Face-to-face classes to continue despite lockdown

By Sam Chambers |

Universities minister: the Government has ‘not seen evidence of increased transmission’ on campuses | Image/Simon Cobb

Universities minister Michelle Donelan has confirmed in an open letter to students that universities can continue to teach in person.

Donelan wrote that since universities were told to make their premises ‘COVID-secure’ the Government has ‘not seen evidence of increased transmission within these environments’.

The letter follows the Prime Minister’s announcement on Saturday, in which he said universities will remain open during England’s second national lockdown.

However, the Government has also advised universities ‘consider moving to increased levels of online learning where possible’.

Universities have not yet received detailed instructions from the Government.

Full guidance ‘will be available shortly’, Donelan wrote in her letter, but she did not say when.

“Students should continue to attend classes” – University of Exeter secretary, Mike Shore-Nye

Donelan also pleaded with students to follow the Government’s national restrictions on travel, which prohibit them from moving between their student home and their permanent home until 2 December, saying ‘any movement around the country will risk the lives of our loved ones’ and ‘I know and appreciate that a number of you may want to be back with your family during this difficult time, but I urge you to stay where you are in order to save lives’.

But many students living in Cornwall are choosing to go home, unwilling to spend the duration of the lockdown at university.

From 5 November, students at Falmouth and Exeter universities will be subject to the same restrictions as the rest of England.

This is despite Cornwall having the one of the lowest rates of COVID-19 cases in the nation, according to latest official data.

On Monday, the secretary and registrar of Exeter University, Mike Shore-Nye, said students at the university ‘should continue to attend classes and colleagues should continue to work as planned, whether on campus or remotely’.

Both Falmouth and Exeter universities will keep their libraries, study spaces, and campus food shops open during the lockdown, while catering in halls will continue.

But campus bars, catering outlets, gyms, and indoor sports facilities will all have to close.

The lockdown also means a temporary end to in-person society events, including sports fixtures and training.