UCL says ‘hang away for at least seven weeks’ for students over Covid concerns

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The largest campus in the United Kingdom, University College London, defies official demand for earlier returns

Due to the rapid spread of the new Covid 19 version in the capital, University College London, the U.K.’s largest campus, has called on its students to return no earlier than the end of February.

The step places UCL at odds with last week’s Department for Education’s guidance. This meant that most students were not able to return to universities in England until Jan. 25, with only those taking courses like medicine or nursing being allowed to return first.

The order from UCL extends the return deadline of the DfE by a month to Feb. 22, and because of its security issues, the university has said it could be extended further until March. Other London institutions are likely to follow suit.

In a joint memo from the university’s current rector, Michael Spence, and his outgoing counterpart, Sir Michael Arthur, UCL students were informed of the delay.

They wrote: “We want to be honest and transparent with you about the decisions we make, noting that “in London, caseloads are rising rapidly and our partner hospitals are at or beyond capacity.

Our current and practical estimate is that caseloads are unlikely to have fallen to the point where students will be able to return to campus by at least mid-February, and probably late March.

“We will therefore move all classes and other face-to-face activities online from the beginning of the semester until the end of Reading Week. No face-to-face classes will be held on campus (except in a few exceptional subjects) until Monday, Feb. 22, at the earliest.

“We realize this is later than the administration advises, but we believe this is the most responsible course of action in this complex situation.”
“If you were in London over winter break or have already returned, you should stay here and not travel back home,” it says. The post ends with urgent advice to students not to come to campus until after mid-February.

We warn you not to fly because we do not want to speed up the spread of the virus and place others at higher risk.

You can help protect each other and keep the pandemic under control by remaining where you are.

UCL has almost 44,000 undergraduate and graduate students, making it the UK’s largest traditional university. There are more students studying in the Open University alone.

On New Year’s Eve, the Minister for Universities in England, Michelle Donelan, sent a letter to students urging most not to return before Jan. 25 and to take two exams before using university facilities for Covid-19.

Donelan also advised foreign students planning to come from overseas to “consider whether they really need to travel to the United Kingdom.” During the semester of spring.

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