Universities could allow students back early to play sports or for 'entertainment'

Camilla Turner
·2-min read
Vice-Chancellors are already making use of "exceptional circumstances"  to let undergraduates return to campus
Vice-Chancellors are already making use of "exceptional circumstances" to let undergraduates return to campus

Universities could allow students back early to play organised sports or for “entertainment” purposes, as they prepare to use the latest loophole in official guidance.

Vice-Chancellors are already making use of "exceptional circumstances" to let undergraduates return to campus, which include suffering from a mental health issue or having inadequate study space at home.

But now university chiefs are examining a new way to permit students to take up residence at their term-time accommodation.

In a letter to senior administrators, the higher education minister Michelle Donelan said: “The existing exemptions still apply for students with inadequate study space and/or mental health and wellbeing issues that would warrant a return to their term time address despite their teaching still being online.

“Please do also consider appropriate provision to support access to university facilities for all students for the purposes of online learning, to safeguard students’ wellbeing and to prevent isolation and mental ill health.

“In line with wider coronavirus restrictions, this may include supporting access to organised sport and entertainment.”

A university source told The Telegraph that the wording of the letter indicates that the Government is widening the grounds on which students can return.

“We interpret sports and entertainment as being additional reasons to allow them to return,” they said. “The university high command has been studying it.

“I am guessing that other universities - particularly ones with big sporting facilities - will probably have said something about this.

"It could also be that classic Government thing of ‘we have screwed up so lets just give them bits back in dribs and drabs.”

Last week the Government announced that around one million university students will not be allowed to return to campus for another month.

The only students allowed to return to campus following the Christmas break were those doing degrees that require face-to-face teaching for a professional qualification, such as medicine and dentistry.

On March 8, students on creative or practical courses such as performing arts were also allowed back. But around half of the UK’s student population - including humanities and social science students - will continue to be banned from taking up residence at their term-time accommodation and resuming face-to-face lectures until May 17 at the earliest.

University leaders have attacked the decision to delay the return of students as “illogical” since they are now legally able to visit a gym, theme park, zoo or spa as well as go on a self-catered holiday.