Students’ Return to Universities - Statement

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 1:16 pm on 1st October 2020.

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Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Shadow Spokesperson (Further & Higher Education), Shadow Spokesperson (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport) (Sport), Shadow Spokesperson (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and International Trade) 1:16 pm, 1st October 2020

My Lords, the situation that students face as they return to university is deeply concerning. Outbreaks are spreading, thousands are now isolating, parents are increasingly worried for their children and university staff working hard to prepare for a safe return are both anxious and angry. This situation was not inevitable, but many rightly feel let down by the Government. We need a plan to get testing fit for purpose, access to remote learning for students who are isolating, and security for the future of our universities.

I ask the Minister to start resolving that today by answering some key questions. Should students who have not yet moved to campus still do so? What steps are the Government urgently taking to speed up access to Covid-19 testing at universities? What support is being offered to those institutions that are setting up their own testing facilities? How do the Government intend to increase digital access for isolating students? As a minimum, we need answers to these points if people who are involved in the university sector and education are to have some confidence of a way forward while things progress as they are.