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On Monday evening, Boris Johnson revealed his ‘road map’ for how the UK will leave lockdown and eventually lift restrictions which has been followed by an email from the Vice – Chancellor, Charlie Jeffery.
No set date was given for Universities to resume in-person teaching but it has been advised that degrees which require practical elements should be allowed to return to campus from 8 March. This is likely to include degrees such as the sciences as well as specific arts degrees, like performing arts.
According to the ‘road map’ household mixing will not be allowed until 17 May at the earliest, but whether this will allow all students to return to classrooms is debatable. The UCU has called for all non-essential teaching to be online for the foreseeable future.
If students do return to campus, they will have to wear face masks, social distance and avoid large gatherings. A review is due at Easter over whether more university students will be officially allowed to return to campus.
The University has stated that the rent credit scheme for students who cannot return to on campus accommodation will be extended to 19 April.
The Vice-Chancellor has pointed out that testing will be a vital part of the return to campus. In the email, concerning students' return he states that “We believe that much will depend on the latest health situation, particularly the latest picture of campuses and the take up of Covid testing.”
Despite this lack of clarity for students, there are some positives to look forward to. The ‘roadmap’ is due to allow outdoor hospitality and grassroot sport from the 12th April, meaning we could see a return of the Forest for Term 3. YUSU has already confirmed that The Forest will remain on campus until July and the Vice Chancellor mentioned social activity in his latest email.
The Vice Chancellor has stated that “In order to resume in-person activities as safely as possible, we are retaining the marquee at the Piazza on Campus East and we are adding four additional covered outdoor structures around campus, which can be used for learning and teaching purposes during the day and as bookable social spaces in the evenings once restrictions have eased further. We know that Covid transmits less easily outdoors, and the warmer spring weather should make it more comfortable to use these facilities!”
With the easing of restrictions on social gatherings over spring, YUSU has suggested that it may be possible to hold some sort of celebration for this year’s graduates. Many were extremely disappointed when the University cancelled graduations in January, so any form of celebration would be welcomed.
Concerning graduations, YUSU President, Patrick O’Donnell, stated on Facebook that “We can again strengthen our case for in-person graduations in the summer”.
He went on to say that “while we are still awaiting detailed guidance for universities from the Department of Education on teaching, I’m really pleased we are now able to provisionally plan to reopen our social spaces.”
“However I know this means that many students will be able to return to their university accommodation until after Easter – we are still working at all levels to get more action on this”.