Universities pledge to support students as lockdown continues

Universities in Shropshire have said they will do all they can to support students after it was revealed that full face-to-face teaching will not return until May 17 at the earliest.

Harper Adams University
Harper Adams University

Despite hopes that students across the country would be able to get back on campus sooner, many students will now not be able to return to finish their studies.

The Department for Education said it expected all remaining students to be able to return to in-person teaching on campus when further easing of restrictions on social contact indoors was confirmed, which will be no earlier than May 17.

Alex Williams, of University Centre Shrewsbury said in a limited number of subjects, such as nursing and teaching, face-to-face classes had already returned.

But she said for other subjects the centre was, like all other universities awaiting further guidance from the Government.

She added: “A number of subject areas, such as nursing, teaching, and practical creative arts subjects are already allowed to return to campus for face-to-face teaching, and there will be some students studying on our Covid-secure campus in a socially distanced manner after the Easter break.

“All of our students will continue to have high quality virtual sessions and support from academic and other colleagues.”

University Centre Shrewsbury

At Wolverhampton University, which has a campus at Telford, deputy vice-chancellor Prof Julia Clarke said it had also allowed a limited number of students back on the campus.

She admitted it was disappointing that the majority of students would have to wait another month before they could return.

“During the latest lockdown, we have continued to provide practical, on campus teaching to students on critical care courses, such as nursing," said Prof Clarke.

"Since March 8, in line with government guidance, we have also had students studying practical and creative higher education courses on campus, these are students who would be unable to complete their course if they had not returned to access specialist facilities.

"We had hoped to welcome our remaining students back to campus sooner than May 17 which has been announced as the earliest date by which students can return.

"And we know it will be incredibly disappointing for some of our students that they will now be finishing this academic year without teaching on campus.

"We will continue to provide the best quality online teaching that we can to our students and to support them through the challenges they are facing."

Although not all students were able to return to campus for lectures, the university's libraries were open for students who did not have an appropriate study space or a computer at home.

Prof Clarke added: "Throughout the pandemic we have provided a range of support for our students in managing their mental health and well-being, financial support through the university’s Dennis Turner Hardship Fund and introduced a laptop loan scheme."

James Bailey, of Harper Adams University in Edgmond, near Newport, said the announcement would have little impact on teaching plans for the coming term.

"The Government’s guidance applies to students who are not on practical or practice-based courses. The most recent updates to that guidance do not change our teaching plans for the coming term.

“The nature of many of our courses means that a number of Covid-secure practical sessions and tutorials are already being carried out on campus, in line with the guidance – while our lectures will currently remain online."

He said students who returned to campus would be expected to take a coronavirus test before leaving home and only travel if this test is negative.

"They are also then asked to undertake regular lateral flow tests, which are available at community testing sites and also through an on-campus facility for those returning after Easter,” he added.

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