The Vice-Chancellor of the University of Greenwich has written to a collection of local MPs urging them to help provide clarity as to when campuses will be allowed to reopen.

Professor Jane Harrington has addressed a letter to local south east London MPs asking why no date has been given for the majority of students to return to campus, despite them being Covid-safe and large swathes of sectors reopening.

The university described how staff and students had been eagerly awaiting the Prime Minister's roadmap announcement on Easter Monday, "but were left disappointed" by a lack of any information relevant to them.

In the letter, Professor Harrington asks the MPs to pressure the Government over setting a long-overdue date for the reopening of campuses and the return of in-person learning.

University of Greenwich

University of Greenwich

Students studying key-worker courses and other, practical or specialist equipment courses were able to return in January and March respectively, but government advice currently states that others should remain at non-term time addresses and universities should not provide in person-teaching.

VC Harrington said in her letter that the list of sectors reopening from April 12 is extensive, from all shops, personal care, gyms, spas, zoos, theme parks, public libraries and community centres returning.

Individuals will soon be able to travel across England for self-catered holidays, but not access in-person university teaching.

"It seems illogical and unfair that students who have been studying online up until now are being told they still cannot access facilities or socially-distanced teaching in their Covid-safe university campus – nor when this might be possible –despite the significant benefits it would bring to their development and their mental health."

Greenwich University also stresses that they have diligently followed the Government's guidance, with hand sanitising stations, free face masks, reorganised timetables anphysicalal spaces, fresh air anventilationon, and community testing sites.

COvid-19 testing at Greenwich University

COvid-19 testing at Greenwich University

The public health departments of local councils and an inspection from the Health and Safety Executive last year all confirmed satisfaction with our Covid Safe arrangements.

Another concern that has been expressed in the media is that the return of students to on campus learning would lead to migration of people around the country.

However, at University of Greenwich 55% of students live at home locally. Out of the students who live in university accommodation, 84% are believed to already be in residence.

Therefore, allowing Greenwich University students to return on campus would not lead to mass migration, the university argues.

Universities are now being asked to explain this decision to students when we have been given no explanation or clarification whatsoever by the UK government with no information or guidance being published.

Many students have been studying away from university since the start of December, and we have particular concerns about the impact of a prolonged period away from campus on students from disadvantaged and underrepresented backgrounds.

University of Greenwich

University of Greenwich

Ensuring students can return to some in-person teaching and benefit from in-person social and sporting activities as well as careers advice and mentoring opportunities will be vital to their wellbeing, personal development and employment prospects.

The letter read: "On behalf of the University of Greenwich I would be grateful if you could take action in one, or several, of the following ways and support your local university and student body to get the clarity they need:

  • Write to the Education Secretary Gavin Williamson MP and Universities Minister Michelle Donelan MP asking for urgent confirmation of the government’s plans for the return of remaining students
  • Table a written parliamentary question to the Secretary of State for Education asking for the DfE to confirm the date from which all university students will be able to return to campus and resume in-person teaching
  • Raise the issue in any forthcoming debates or ministerial statements once parliament returns [I would be happy to provide additional notes]."

She added that universities across the country have played a "vital role" in the immediate and longer-term response to the pandemic, through research, vaccine development, volunteering and providing facilities.

"Students now deserve to know the government’s rationale behind allowing other sectors of the economy to open up while they continue to be advised against returning to campus."