University leaders in England have expressed their disappointment with the government after it ruled out a full return to face-to-face teaching for students before May 17th. The leaders accused the government of treating students like “second-class citizens” by treating them as pawns to save the economy.
According to earlier reports, it is believed that the government decided against reopening in-person learning in universities due to fears that the return would cause a surge in covid infections, resulting in disruption for the reopening of indoor hospitality, which is also due for reopening on May 17th. However, the Treasury denied the reports indicating that the office had no mandate on which parts of the economy to reopen, pointing out that only the prime minister had the authority.
Universities in-person reopening challenges
Vanessa Wilson, the CEO of the University Alliance, also criticized the government’s decision to prioritize the hospitality sector, calling it absurd. She indicated that there was no evidence that reopening in-person learning in the country would create any risks, terming the move to weigh the hospitality sector versus university reopening as a financial decision.
The Department of Education indicated that the decision to reopen in-person learning on May 17 resulted from following the government guidelines and roadmap out of lockdown. They indicated that the reopening would be in compliance with step 3 of the guidelines and indicated that covid infection data would be reviewed before the reopening.
Michelle Donelan, the universities minister, in a statement, indicated that the movement of students across the country posed a bigger threat in the fight against the virus, noting that high transmission variants of the virus were already frustrating the government’s effort to fight the virus.
She continued by acknowledging the difficult year that students in England have faced in the last year. However, she urged them to be patient, highlighting the importance of following the laid-out reopening roadmap as a way to maintain a cautious approach to the easing restrictions. She indicated that these steps would help the country progress towards in-person reopening and help in the fight against the virus.