Students urged to act responsibly by universities minister

The universities minister has urged students to act responsibly to ensure campuses can remain open.

Ahead of thousands of students arriving at campuses across the country for freshers’ week, Michelle Donelan has warned police will take “serious action” against those organising large events.

New restrictions are coming into force in England on Monday that mean social gatherings of more than six people will be against the law both indoors and outdoors – including in pubs and restaurants.

After reports some companies have been advertising mass social freshers’ events, Ms Donelan said: “Health advice only works if we all follow it.

“I urge students, just like the wider public, to do their bit and act responsibly to ensure campuses can remain open for them to use and enjoy.”

She added: “As a Government, we have clearly set out the consequences for anyone who risks spreading the virus, whether that’s through illicit social gatherings or organising large events.

“The police and local authorities will take serious action where it is necessary.”

The warning came after Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell, vice-chancellor of the University of Manchester, said students could face exclusions if they do not follow rules on social distancing.

Boris Johnson also pleaded with students not to socialise in larger groups and said they should not return to their family in the event of a local outbreak.

All social activities will need to comply with new rules but students will be able to socialise with the same “household” they form in their accommodation.

Guidance from the Department for Education (DfE) says universities should not allow students to have “private gatherings” in halls of residence that exceed the limits for gatherings in private households.

But it says universities should support students to socialise in Covid-secure environments – like campus bars and students’ unions – and they should identify “safer social activities” for them.

“We are aware of the planning already under way for freshers’ events that provide Covid-secure entertainment activities in ways that comply with public health guidance,” the advice adds.

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