Students are to be sent straight home from university after lockdown so they can spend Christmas with their families, official guidance will say.
The long-awaited advice, which will be published on Wednesday by the Department for Education will say that all lectures and classes should move online by December 9 at the latest so students can continue attending from their homes.
As soon as the national lockdown ends on December 2, the “student travel window” will begin with universities told to organise staggered departure dates over the following seven days.
Students who are returning to their home in England from elsewhere in the UK will be told to complete two weeks of self-isolation either before or after traveling, since they will not have just come out of a month of lockdown.
Michelle Donelan, the universities minister, said: “We know this Christmas will feel different, and following this incredibly difficult year we are delivering on our commitment to get students back to their loved ones as safely as possible for the holidays.
“We have worked really hard to find a way to do this for students, while limiting the risk of transmission. Now it is vital they follow these measures to protect their families and communities, and for universities to make sure students have all the wellbeing support they need, especially those who stay on campus over the break.”
The Telegraph revealed earlier this week that the Government intends to roll out mass testing at universities so that students with a negative test can return home straight away.
Students who test positive will have to remain on campus while they isolate for ten days and they would then be free to travel home after this, ministers will confirm today.
Tests will be offered to “as many students as possible before they travel home for Christmas” with priority given to universities in “areas of high prevalence”, the guidance will say.
The “pre-end-of-term testing” will take place between November 30 and December 6, according to a timeline prepared by NHS Test and Trace and sent out to universities.
Vice-chancellors welcomed the proposals for mass testing at universities but cautioned that they will need “clear assurance of the effectiveness of the tests”.
Universities UK also urged ministers to clarify “specific responsibilities under the proposed scheme including the governance, indemnity, resourcing and costs recovery.”
Dr Jenny Harries, the deputy chief medical officer, said that the movement of students around the country “presents a really significant challenge within the Covid-19 response”.
She added: “The measures announced today will help minimise that risk and help students get home to their families as safely as possible for Christmas. It is crucial that students follow the guidance in order to protect their families and the communities they return to.”