Thousands of students across the UK have become subject to isolation in student accommodation as COVID-19 cases in halls of residence and student areas soar.
Institutions such as the University of Glasgow and Manchester Metropolitan University have ordered new students to isolate for two weeks inside their accommodation after local outbreaks of coronavirus that have been linked to students moving across the country.
Around 40 universities across the UK have currently reported positive coronavirus cases, with some choosing to fully suspend face-to-face teaching and move all lectures, seminars, and tutorials online.
However, there are fears that a transition to fully online teaching will trigger complaints and requests for refunds and discounts for students at a time where universities are already facing significant financial challenges.
A number of universities have also seen regular occurrences of illegal parties and raves over freshers’ week, with hundreds of students failing to follow social distancing rules. In some halls of residence students have been threatened with curfews and fines if they fail to follow the rules.
Universities have also faced criticism over their handling of the crisis, with some students left in the dark over how they will acquire food, wash clothes, and be taught during their isolation period.
Residents of Glasgow University halls are now being offered a four-week rent rebate and £50 credit “in recognition of the difficult circumstances” students are living under.
The lockdowns follow repeated warnings from unions such as the University and College Union (UCU), who urged universities to reconsider face-to-face teaching earlier this month.
Their general secretary Jo Grady called the COVID-19 outbreaks the “completely predictable” outcome of telling students to return to university, and that they were not a consequence of “reckless behaviour” by students.
Students in Scotland have also been banned from going to pubs and bars in an effort to help curb infection rates there.
Shadow education secretary Kate Green has asked the government to consider pausing the start of the university term until a more effective testing system is in place across the UK.
The government has also told students that they cannot rule out banning them from returning home at Christmas in order to stop another mass move of young people across the country.
However Amanda Milling, Co-Chairman of the Conservative Party said there were "no plans" to make students stay at university over Christmas.