Students: Coronavirus

Department for Education written question – answered on 12th October 2020.

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Photo of Lord Taylor of Warwick Lord Taylor of Warwick Non-affiliated

To ask Her Majesty's Government what risk assessment they undertook, prior to September, of the impact of students returning to universities on the transmission of COVID-19.

Photo of Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

The safety and wellbeing of staff and students in higher education (HE) is always our priority and the government is doing all it can to minimise the risks to those working and studying in our HE institutions in this unprecedented situation, while mitigating the impact on education.

As with all educational settings, we continue to monitor the situation closely and follow the latest scientific advice, adapting policies as the situation changes. Our guidance for providers on reopening campuses takes account of the latest scientific advice from the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, which has been considering the risks of reopening HE institutions. The guidance is available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/higher-education-reopening-buildings-and-campuses/higher-education-reopening-buildings-and-campuses.

The government has drawn on the expertise of the HE taskforce that we set up for this purpose, and we have been providing robust public health advice and regular updates to the sector to help it to plan carefully to keep students and staff as safe as possible. As our guidance makes clear, we expect providers to conduct risk assessments and consider appropriate measures to ensure that they minimise risks to the wellbeing of staff and students while delivering the high quality education for which our HE providers are known.

We have worked with universities to ensure that they all have outbreak plans. These have been developed in conjunction with local Public Health Teams and all have been or are being agreed with local Directors of Public Health. The plans cover a range of scenarios and ensure providers are prepared to respond quickly to an outbreak in their educational setting or wider community.

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