Weekly news roundup: UK campus reopenings could be pushed back, and US colleges will ask all students to get vaccine

By Nicole Wootton-Cane• Last updated: Oct 31, 2023
Weekly news roundup: UK campus reopenings could be pushed back, and US colleges will ask all students to get vaccine
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As vaccination rates rise all over the world, university leaders are looking to the start of the next academic year. 

This week has seen Rutgers in New Jersey, USA, become the first US university to tell students that they must have the coronavirus vaccine if they wish to return to campus in August.

`And in the UK, Universities UK is arguing that students must be allowed to return to campus following the Easter holidays, in the interests of their wellbeing - but unions feel differently.

Here’s your weekly higher education news roundup. 

UK unis face uncertain reopening 

University leaders across the UK are pushing for all students to be allowed to return to campus after Easter.

However, there are some concerns that campus reopening dates could be pushed back into May in an effort to protect students and staff against the spread of coronavirus.

Unions such as the University and College Union (UCU) have argued that teaching should be moved online for the duration of the academic year in order to not put staff and students at risk.

However, universities are arguing that on-campus presence is essential for student wellbeing.

The government has yet to confirm an exact date for campus reopening, but it was previously expected to follow the next easing of lockdown restrictions on 12 April. 

Julia Buckingham, president of Universities UK (UUK) said students had been “extremely tolerant in the face of huge disruption and a radically different experience this year, and have willingly made sacrifices in the interests of public safety. But the government must not take their resilience for granted.”

Previous studies suggest that student presence on campus does not play a significant role in the spreading of covid-19 in the community, despite high case numbers among students in the autumn. 

However, UCU argue that bringing students back this academic year will fail to benefit them, as most teaching stops to make way for exams after the easter holidays. 

US colleges tell students they must have vaccine to return to campus

Rutgers has become the first major US university to announce that students will not be permitted on campus next academic year without evidence of their covid-19 vaccination. 

The university, which is home to 71,000 students, said the only excusable exceptions would be for medical or religious reasons. 

The move is popular among students, and is expected to be replicated in other US universities. 

It comes after president Joe Biden announced that the US would expect to have adequate vaccine supplies for the foreseeable future. 

And a new report has suggested that prestigious institutions in the US actually received more applications in the 2020/21 academic year, despite coronavirus. 

In an analysis of over 120,000 applications to US universities by BridgeU students at international schools found that applications increased to big-name institutions, especially in North Carolina, Virginia, and Michigan.

However, less selective institutions saw a drop in applications, leaving them vulnerable to financial difficulties due to coronavirus. 

“Some US universities have continued to prosper in a year of general decline for admissions and enrolment teams, but these have mostly been institutions with strong pre-existing global brand recognition,” said BridgeU founder and CEO Lucy Stonehill.

“The challenges that will define US international student recruitment in the years to come have not gone away.”

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