Ministers in the UK are reportedly discussing plans to lock down universities two weeks before the end of term, in order to allow students to travel home for Christmas.
The lockdown would see students told to remain on campus, with all teaching taking place online.
However, critics have questioned how universities will manage to ‘lock down’ thousands of students in private student housing, and pointed out the impact the plan could have on student mental health.
The plan would see universities go into lockdown from 8 December to 22 December, with students then being allowed to travel home and join their families for Christmas.
It comes after significant spikes in infection in university towns and cities such as Manchester, Liverpool, and Newcastle, with thousands of students already under university lockdowns in halls of residence.
The University of Manchester, Aberystwyth University, and Manchester Metropolitan University, are among the institutions which have paused in-person teaching in an attempt to bring down COVID cases on campus.
Universities minister Michelle Donelan reportedly held talks with Universities UK yesterday to try and persuade them to back the plan.
However, critics have also pointed out that the plan ignores different end of term dates at universities, and is potentially unviable for international students, who may need longer to travel home.
Vice chancellors have also expressed concerns that they do not have the power to keep students inside their homes.
Jo Grady, general secretary of the University and College Union (UCU) warned that the plan could be “unworkable and chaotic” if universities and students are not consulted.
“Instead of this perverse obsession with Christmas, ministers and universities must focus on the here and now. We should be talking about getting people home now, not in two months’ time.
“This is a government completely out of touch with the public and seemingly unaware of what happens at universities.”
The Department for Education has said that plans will be set out “shortly”.