Tip: To match a phrase, use quotation marks around the search term. eg. "Parliamentary Estate"


View sample alert
Written Question
Universities: Coronavirus
22 Jul 2021

Questioner: Bill Wiggin (CON - North Herefordshire)

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, if he will publish the names of those universities that are not planning to return to face-to-face learning in the autumn 2021 term to allow students to make an informed decision on where they wish to attend.

Answered by Michelle Donelan

From July 19, there are no further restrictions on in-person provision in the autumn term. Higher education (HE) providers can shape their courses without restrictions on face-to-face provision. The position will be kept under review considering the latest scientific evidence and public health advice. The latest advice can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/higher-education-reopening-buildings-and-campuses.

HE providers should therefore not be planning to restrict teaching based on COVID-19 restrictions. However, universities are autonomous institutions, and it is for providers to determine their own provision, taking account of government guidance. We understand that several universities have announced plans on teaching in the next academic year and some will retain an element of blended learning. We know that the COVID-19 outbreak has enabled many providers to identify new and innovative approaches to teaching and learning, and students will continue to benefit from these alongside in person provision. The department therefore has no plans to publish the names of, or reduce funding for, individual institutions which are not returning to face-to-face provision in the autumn term.

We expect all universities to act in the interest of students and provide them with a full experience, and in accordance with Office for Students guidance, which can be found here: https://www.officeforstudents.org.uk/publications/guidance-for-providers-about-student-and-consumer-protection-during-the-pandemic/. HE providers should communicate clearly to their students what they can expect from planned teaching and learning so that they are able to make informed choices.

The Office for Students has also made it clear that all HE providers must continue to comply with registration conditions relating to quality and standards. This means ensuring that courses provide a high-quality academic experience, that students are supported and achieve good outcomes, and that standards are protected, regardless of whether a provider is delivering its courses through in-person teaching, remote online learning or a combination of both.

There are no plans to publish names of institutions which are offering fee reductions to their students, as HE providers are autonomous and are responsible for setting their own fees within maximum fee limits set by the Regulations, where applicable. The government has already announced that maximum fees in the 2021/22 academic year will remain at £9,250 for a standard full-time course. We also intend to freeze the maximum tuition fee caps for the 2022/23 academic year to deliver better value for students and to keep the cost of HE under control. This will be the fifth year in succession that maximum fees have been frozen.

Whether an individual student is entitled to a refund of their tuition fees depends on the specific contractual arrangements between the provider and student. If students have concerns, there is a process in place. They should first raise their concerns with their university. If their concerns remain unresolved, students at providers in England or Wales can ask the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education to consider their complaint.

We routinely meet with the Student Loans Company on a range of matters and will continue to do so as we move forward through the COVID-19 outbreak. However, we have not had discussions with the Student Loans Company on a reduction in university fees for universities that are not planning to resume face-to-face teaching for the autumn term.


Written Question
Universities: Coronavirus
22 Jul 2021

Questioner: Bill Wiggin (CON - North Herefordshire)

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what plans he has to ensure that universities return to face-to-face learning after the 19 July 2021 relaxation of covid-19 restrictions.

Answered by Michelle Donelan

From July 19, there are no further restrictions on in-person provision in the autumn term. Higher education (HE) providers can shape their courses without restrictions on face-to-face provision. The position will be kept under review considering the latest scientific evidence and public health advice. The latest advice can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/higher-education-reopening-buildings-and-campuses.

HE providers should therefore not be planning to restrict teaching based on COVID-19 restrictions. However, universities are autonomous institutions, and it is for providers to determine their own provision, taking account of government guidance. We understand that several universities have announced plans on teaching in the next academic year and some will retain an element of blended learning. We know that the COVID-19 outbreak has enabled many providers to identify new and innovative approaches to teaching and learning, and students will continue to benefit from these alongside in person provision. The department therefore has no plans to publish the names of, or reduce funding for, individual institutions which are not returning to face-to-face provision in the autumn term.

We expect all universities to act in the interest of students and provide them with a full experience, and in accordance with Office for Students guidance, which can be found here: https://www.officeforstudents.org.uk/publications/guidance-for-providers-about-student-and-consumer-protection-during-the-pandemic/. HE providers should communicate clearly to their students what they can expect from planned teaching and learning so that they are able to make informed choices.

The Office for Students has also made it clear that all HE providers must continue to comply with registration conditions relating to quality and standards. This means ensuring that courses provide a high-quality academic experience, that students are supported and achieve good outcomes, and that standards are protected, regardless of whether a provider is delivering its courses through in-person teaching, remote online learning or a combination of both.

There are no plans to publish names of institutions which are offering fee reductions to their students, as HE providers are autonomous and are responsible for setting their own fees within maximum fee limits set by the Regulations, where applicable. The government has already announced that maximum fees in the 2021/22 academic year will remain at £9,250 for a standard full-time course. We also intend to freeze the maximum tuition fee caps for the 2022/23 academic year to deliver better value for students and to keep the cost of HE under control. This will be the fifth year in succession that maximum fees have been frozen.

Whether an individual student is entitled to a refund of their tuition fees depends on the specific contractual arrangements between the provider and student. If students have concerns, there is a process in place. They should first raise their concerns with their university. If their concerns remain unresolved, students at providers in England or Wales can ask the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education to consider their complaint.

We routinely meet with the Student Loans Company on a range of matters and will continue to do so as we move forward through the COVID-19 outbreak. However, we have not had discussions with the Student Loans Company on a reduction in university fees for universities that are not planning to resume face-to-face teaching for the autumn term.


Written Question
Universities: Coronavirus
22 Jul 2021

Questioner: Bill Wiggin (CON - North Herefordshire)

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what discussions officials in his Department have had with representatives of universities that are not planning to return to face-to-face learning from the autumn 2021 term, after the relaxation of covid-19 restrictions.

Answered by Michelle Donelan

From July 19, there are no further restrictions on in-person provision in the autumn term. Higher education (HE) providers can shape their courses without restrictions on face-to-face provision. The position will be kept under review considering the latest scientific evidence and public health advice. The latest advice can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/higher-education-reopening-buildings-and-campuses.

HE providers should therefore not be planning to restrict teaching based on COVID-19 restrictions. However, universities are autonomous institutions, and it is for providers to determine their own provision, taking account of government guidance. We understand that several universities have announced plans on teaching in the next academic year and some will retain an element of blended learning. We know that the COVID-19 outbreak has enabled many providers to identify new and innovative approaches to teaching and learning, and students will continue to benefit from these alongside in person provision. The department therefore has no plans to publish the names of, or reduce funding for, individual institutions which are not returning to face-to-face provision in the autumn term.

We expect all universities to act in the interest of students and provide them with a full experience, and in accordance with Office for Students guidance, which can be found here: https://www.officeforstudents.org.uk/publications/guidance-for-providers-about-student-and-consumer-protection-during-the-pandemic/. HE providers should communicate clearly to their students what they can expect from planned teaching and learning so that they are able to make informed choices.

The Office for Students has also made it clear that all HE providers must continue to comply with registration conditions relating to quality and standards. This means ensuring that courses provide a high-quality academic experience, that students are supported and achieve good outcomes, and that standards are protected, regardless of whether a provider is delivering its courses through in-person teaching, remote online learning or a combination of both.

There are no plans to publish names of institutions which are offering fee reductions to their students, as HE providers are autonomous and are responsible for setting their own fees within maximum fee limits set by the Regulations, where applicable. The government has already announced that maximum fees in the 2021/22 academic year will remain at £9,250 for a standard full-time course. We also intend to freeze the maximum tuition fee caps for the 2022/23 academic year to deliver better value for students and to keep the cost of HE under control. This will be the fifth year in succession that maximum fees have been frozen.

Whether an individual student is entitled to a refund of their tuition fees depends on the specific contractual arrangements between the provider and student. If students have concerns, there is a process in place. They should first raise their concerns with their university. If their concerns remain unresolved, students at providers in England or Wales can ask the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education to consider their complaint.

We routinely meet with the Student Loans Company on a range of matters and will continue to do so as we move forward through the COVID-19 outbreak. However, we have not had discussions with the Student Loans Company on a reduction in university fees for universities that are not planning to resume face-to-face teaching for the autumn term.


Written Question
Universities: Coronavirus
22 Jul 2021

Questioner: Bill Wiggin (CON - North Herefordshire)

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, which universities are not planning to return to face-to-face learning in the autumn 2021 term.

Answered by Michelle Donelan

From July 19, there are no further restrictions on in-person provision in the autumn term. Higher education (HE) providers can shape their courses without restrictions on face-to-face provision. The position will be kept under review considering the latest scientific evidence and public health advice. The latest advice can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/higher-education-reopening-buildings-and-campuses.

HE providers should therefore not be planning to restrict teaching based on COVID-19 restrictions. However, universities are autonomous institutions, and it is for providers to determine their own provision, taking account of government guidance. We understand that several universities have announced plans on teaching in the next academic year and some will retain an element of blended learning. We know that the COVID-19 outbreak has enabled many providers to identify new and innovative approaches to teaching and learning, and students will continue to benefit from these alongside in person provision. The department therefore has no plans to publish the names of, or reduce funding for, individual institutions which are not returning to face-to-face provision in the autumn term.

We expect all universities to act in the interest of students and provide them with a full experience, and in accordance with Office for Students guidance, which can be found here: https://www.officeforstudents.org.uk/publications/guidance-for-providers-about-student-and-consumer-protection-during-the-pandemic/. HE providers should communicate clearly to their students what they can expect from planned teaching and learning so that they are able to make informed choices.

The Office for Students has also made it clear that all HE providers must continue to comply with registration conditions relating to quality and standards. This means ensuring that courses provide a high-quality academic experience, that students are supported and achieve good outcomes, and that standards are protected, regardless of whether a provider is delivering its courses through in-person teaching, remote online learning or a combination of both.

There are no plans to publish names of institutions which are offering fee reductions to their students, as HE providers are autonomous and are responsible for setting their own fees within maximum fee limits set by the Regulations, where applicable. The government has already announced that maximum fees in the 2021/22 academic year will remain at £9,250 for a standard full-time course. We also intend to freeze the maximum tuition fee caps for the 2022/23 academic year to deliver better value for students and to keep the cost of HE under control. This will be the fifth year in succession that maximum fees have been frozen.

Whether an individual student is entitled to a refund of their tuition fees depends on the specific contractual arrangements between the provider and student. If students have concerns, there is a process in place. They should first raise their concerns with their university. If their concerns remain unresolved, students at providers in England or Wales can ask the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education to consider their complaint.

We routinely meet with the Student Loans Company on a range of matters and will continue to do so as we move forward through the COVID-19 outbreak. However, we have not had discussions with the Student Loans Company on a reduction in university fees for universities that are not planning to resume face-to-face teaching for the autumn term.


Written Question
Universities: Ventilation
22 Jul 2021

Questioner: Kate Green (LAB - Stretford and Urmston)

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, pursuant to the Answer of 14 July 2021 to Question 30353 on ventilation in universities, what budget has been made available for enforcement activities in respect of ventilation in universities in each of the last 10 years; what enforcement action has been taken in respect of ventilation in universities in each of the last 10 years; and when he last met vice-chancellors to discuss ventilation.

Answered by Michelle Donelan

As employers, higher education (HE) providers have a legal responsibility to protect workers and others from risk to their health and safety, including from the risks of COVID-19. They should complete a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks of COVID-19 in the workplace and identify control measures, including ensuring adequate ventilation, to manage that risk, based on relevant government guidance and best practice.

As HE providers are autonomous institutions, they should identify and put in place appropriate plans, in line with government guidance, based on their individual circumstances, and for allocating their budgets based on these plans.

HE providers should identify any poorly ventilated spaces as part of their risk assessment and take steps to improve fresh air flow in these areas, giving consideration when holding events where large numbers of visitors are on site. These can be achieved by a variety of measures as set out here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/higher-education-reopening-buildings-and-campuses/higher-education-covid-19-operational-guidance.

As set out in the answer of 14 July 2021 to Question 30353 on ventilation in universities, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) have published guidance on ventilation during the COVID-19 outbreak which is relevant for HE providers and the HSE may take action if control of workplace risks is needed. This guidance can be found here: https://www.hse.gov.uk/coronavirus/equipment-and-machinery/air-conditioning-and-ventilation/assesssment-of-fresh-air.htm.

I and my officials regularly engage with the HE sector and the importance of ensuring adequate ventilation has been, and continues to be, discussed.


Written Question
Universities: Coronavirus
19 Jul 2021

Questioner: Caroline Lucas (GRN - Brighton, Pavilion)

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, what discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for Education on what steps higher education institutions should take in preventing the spread of covid-19 infections from 16 August 2021, when the self-isolation rules change, for students recently turned 18 who have (a) had close contact with someone who has tested positive for covid-19 and (b) not yet had two doses of a covid-19 vaccine; and if he will make a statement.

Answered by Jo Churchill

There have been no specific discussions. However, consideration was given to those recently turned 18 years old who will not have been fully vaccinated. We will provide further information shortly.

The Government has recently updated its guidance for higher education providers to prevent the spread of COVID-19 infections, which is available at the following link:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/higher-education-reopening-buildings-and-campuses


Written Question
Universities: Coronavirus
19 Jul 2021

Questioner: Caroline Lucas (GRN - Brighton, Pavilion)

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, if he will issue guidance on covid-19 safety measures for recent 18 year olds who are (a) due to go to University in autumn 2021 and (b) all other recent 18 year olds; what discussions he has had with (i) Directors of Public Health and (ii) relevant higher education and health stakeholders on provision of covid-19 vaccinations at universities; and if he will make a statement.

Answered by Michelle Donelan

On 14 July 2021, we updated the higher education (HE) operational guidance for the sector on how HE settings can manage the risks of transmission and outbreaks as students return to campus. This is available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/higher-education-reopening-buildings-and-campuses.

This includes advice on testing prior to arrival at university and measures on ventilation and outbreak management.

We routinely engage stakeholders in our plans including via the HE Task Force, involving representatives from across government and the HE sector, which meets to explore the challenges currently facing the sector as it continues to deal with the effects of the COVID-19 outbreak.

We also regularly engage with the Department of Health and Social Care, and we are working with them to ensure students have easy access to vaccinations at university if needed. We expect universities to work closely with their directors of health, especially for the development of outbreak management plans.

The COVID-19 vaccination is now being offered to everyone aged 18 and over, and we strongly encourage all students to take up the opportunity to be vaccinated as soon as possible, to protect themselves and those around them.

Students should register with a GP to be actively invited for a vaccination, though they can easily request to book a COVID-19 vaccine as an unregistered patient. More information on accessing vaccines can be found on the NHS published student frequently asked questions. HE providers should encourage students to consult with this advice, which are available here: https://www.england.nhs.uk/coronavirus/wp-content/uploads/sites/52/2021/06/C1317-COVID-19-vaccination-FAQs-students-in-Higher-Education-Institutions-.pdf.

Students and staff should continue to test twice a week, either using home test kits or at an on-site facility throughout the summer break where settings remain open. Testing will pause in settings that are closed.

Students should expect to test before they travel back to university, by ordering a free test online or collection from their local pharmacy. On arrival at university, students should take two lateral flow device tests – either using home test kits or at an on-site testing facility – 3 to 4 days apart. This is to reduce the risk of transmission following the movement of students across the country. Final decisions about testing on return and ongoing regular asymptomatic testing in the autumn term will take into account public health advice. The position will be confirmed in the coming weeks.


Written Question
Universities: Coronavirus
19 Jul 2021

Questioner: Helen Hayes (LAB - Dulwich and West Norwood)

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what assessment he has made of the number of universities which will not fully reopen for in person learning in September 2022; and what steps his Department is taking to support students at those universities.

Answered by Michelle Donelan

As autonomous institutions, it is for higher education (HE) providers to determine their own provision, including their approach to teaching and learning, taking account of any government guidance. As a result of the COVID-19 outbreak, some providers have accelerated their digital teaching and learning plans and some will retain an element of blending learning. We know that the COVID-19 outbreak has enabled many providers to identify new and innovative approaches to teaching and learning, and students will continue to benefit from these alongside in person provision. We expect all universities to act in the interest of students and provide them with a full experience and in accordance with Office for Students (OfS) guidence: https://www.officeforstudents.org.uk/publications/guidance-for-providers-about-student-and-consumer-protection-during-the-pandemic/.

However, providers should not be planning to restrict teaching based on COVID-19 restrictions. On 6 July, we published guidance for HE providers, setting out plans from Step 4 of the government's roadmap. This includes that there will no longer be restrictions on the approach to teaching and learning in HE providers as a result of COVID-19. There will be no requirement for social distancing or other measures within in-person teaching. Providers will therefore be able to shape their courses without restrictions to face-to-face provision. My right hon. Friend, the Secretary of State for Education, also wrote to education leaders on 8 July, setting out plans as we move towards Step 4, including the government’s expectation that HE providers offer students a full, enriching and enjoyable experience while staying as safe as possible. The letter and details of the relevant guidance are available here: https://educationhub.blog.gov.uk/2021/07/08/a-letter-from-the-education-secretary-to-education-leaders/.

We regularly engage with the HE sector, and this includes ensuring they are aware of the guidance and their obligations. However, as they are autonomous institutions, we do not routinely monitor their individual plans.

The OfS, the HE regulator in England, has made it clear that all HE providers must continue to comply with registration conditions relating to quality and standards. This means ensuring that courses provide a high-quality academic experience, that students are supported and achieve good outcomes, and that standards are protected, regardless of whether a provider is delivering its courses through in-person teaching, remote online learning or a combination of both.

We have also asked universities to be clear and open about what teaching and learning approaches they plan to use so that students can make informed choices.

There is a process in place if students have concerns. They should approach their HE provider in the first instance. We expect student complaints and appeals processes to be operated flexibly, accessibly and sympathetically by providers to resolve these concerns. Students who go to university in England or Wales and who are not satisfied with their provider’s final response can approach the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education who will consider their complaint.


Written Question
Education: Coronavirus
16 Jul 2021

Questioner: Rachael Maskell (LAB - York Central)

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what criteria he will use to determine whether covid-19 secure measures should be reintroduced in the future in the education system.

Answered by Nick Gibb

On 5 July, it was announced that when the Government moves to Step 4 of the roadmap the majority of COVID-19 restrictions will be relaxed. This includes the measures that the Department recommends for early years, schools, colleges, and universities.

The Department for Education has worked closely with the Department of Health and Social Care and Public Health England (PHE) to revise guidance for schools and colleges. Our aim is to balance the risks associated with COVID-19 whilst moving to a ‘steady state’ that minimises both the burden of implementing a system of controls on staff and parents, and the impact those measures have on young people’s educational experience. The Department will continue to keep these measures under review, in partnership with health experts and informed by the latest scientific evidence and advice.

Local authorities, Directors of Public Health and PHE Health Protection Teams play an important role in providing support and advice to early years, schools, colleges, and universities and are responsible for managing localised outbreaks.

The contingency framework describes the types of measures that may need to be reintroduced, outlining the types of measures that early years, schools, colleges, and universities should be prepared for, who can recommend them, when measures should be lifted and how decisions are made. If there is an outbreak, or if they are in an enhanced response area, the local director of public health might advise an early years setting, school, college, or university to temporarily reintroduce some control measures. If that happens, the individual setting's outbreak management plan should help staff understand the actions they need to take. In all cases, any benefits in managing transmission should be weighed against any educational drawbacks. More information is available here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-local-restrictions-in-education-and-childcare-settings/contingency-framework-education-and-childcare-settings.

The Department’s priority is for all early years, schools, colleges, and universities to deliver face-to-face, high quality education to all pupils and students. The evidence is clear that being out of education causes significant harm to educational attainment, life chances, mental and physical health.


Written Question
Students: Quarantine
16 Jul 2021

Questioner: Rachael Maskell (LAB - York Central)

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what educational support will be made available to university students required to self-isolate due to the covid-19 outbreak in the 2021 autumn term; and how he plans to provide that additional support.

Answered by Michelle Donelan

From 16 August and as part of Step 4 of the government’s COVID-19 roadmap, double vaccinated people and under 18 year olds will no longer be legally required to self-isolate if they are identified as a close contact of a positive COVID-19 case.

It is vitally important that universities continue to make sure that students feel as supported as possible, should they have to self-isolate. Universities UK has produced a checklist for higher education (HE) providers to support students who are required to self-isolate: https://www.universitiesuk.ac.uk/policy-and-analysis/reports/Documents/2020/uuk-checklist-support-self-isolating-students.pdf.

Universities UK has also created bespoke guidance for HE providers on how to prepare for and care for students who are required to self-isolate on arrival in the UK. We encourage providers to review this guidance when considering how best to support their international students and other students arriving from overseas.

The Office for Students has also published a statement on support for students in self-isolation during the COVID-19 outbreak, available at: https://www.officeforstudents.org.uk/news-blog-and-events/blog/ofs-student-panel-statement-on-support-for-students-in-self-isolation-during-covid-19-coronavirus-pandemic/. Students will still have access to online resources and learning materials during periods of self-isolation. We encourage students to contact their provider to find out more about what resources are available to them online.

In addition, some students may be eligible for a one-off payment of £500 through the NHS Test and Trace Support Payment Scheme, if they are required to self-isolate: https://www.gov.uk/test-and-trace-support-payment.


Written Question
Universities: Coronavirus
15 Jul 2021

Questioner: Bill Wiggin (CON - North Herefordshire)

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what steps his Department is taking to ensure that university students return to face-to-face learning when covid-19 restrictions are lifted on 19 July 2021.

Answered by Michelle Donelan

In line with Step 4 of the government’s roadmap, there will be no further restrictions on in-person provision in the autumn term. Higher education (HE) providers are therefore able to shape their courses without restrictions on face-to-face provision. The position will be kept under review considering the latest scientific evidence and public health advice. The latest advice can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/higher-education-reopening-buildings-and-campuses.

Furthermore, my right hon. Friend, the Secretary of State for Education, wrote to education leaders on 8 July 2021, setting out plans as we move towards Step 4. This included the government’s expectation that HE providers offer students a full, enriching and enjoyable experience, whilst staying as safe as possible. The letter is available to read here: https://educationhub.blog.gov.uk/2021/07/08/a-letter-from-the-education-secretary-to-education-leaders/.

HE providers should therefore not be planning to restrict teaching based on COVID-19 restrictions. However, as autonomous institutions it is for providers to determine their own provision, taking account of government guidance. We understand that a number of universities have announced plans on teaching in the next academic year: some will retain an element of blended learning. We know that the COVID-19 outbreak has enabled many providers to identify new and innovative approaches to teaching and learning, and students will continue to benefit from these alongside in person provision. We expect all universities to act in the interest of students and provide them with a full experience and in accordance with Office for Students guidance, which can be found here: https://www.officeforstudents.org.uk/publications/guidance-for-providers-about-student-and-consumer-protection-during-the-pandemic/. HE providers should communicate clearly to their students what they can expect from planned teaching and learning so that they are able to make informed choices.

HE providers are autonomous institutions and are responsible for setting their own fees within maximum fee limits set by the regulations, where applicable. The government has already announced that maximum fees in the 2021/22 academic year will remain at £9,250 for a standard full-time course. We also intend to freeze the maximum tuition fee caps for the 2022/23 academic year to deliver better value for students and to keep the cost of higher education under control – the fifth year in succession that maximum fees have been frozen.

Whether an individual student is entitled to a refund of their tuition fees depends on the specific contractual arrangements between the provider and student. Students do have consumer rights, and it is for them to decide whether to seek to exercise these.

We recognised early on the impact the COVID-19 outbreak could have on students’ mental health and wellbeing, and we asked universities to prioritise support for this. Universities responded positively and have transformed mental health and wellbeing services. There are many examples of good practice in this area. Many universities have been actively reaching out to vulnerable students to proactively offer additional support.

We have worked closely with the OfS, to provide up to £3 million to fund the mental health platform Student Space. We have asked the OfS to allocate an additional £15 million towards student mental health, through proposed reforms to strategic priorities grant funding.

Going forward, HE providers should continue to be innovative in how they identify issues and support their students. This includes identifying appropriate technology to flag potential issues and enable students to engage in a variety of ways. As a government, we will continue to review the situation and our support in this area.


Written Question
Universities: Coronavirus
15 Jul 2021

Questioner: Bill Wiggin (CON - North Herefordshire)

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what steps his Department plans to take to help support the return of face-to-face learning at universities in the context of the covid-19 outbreak.

Answered by Michelle Donelan

In line with Step 4 of the government’s roadmap, there will be no further restrictions on in-person provision in the autumn term. Higher education (HE) providers are therefore able to shape their courses without restrictions on face-to-face provision. The position will be kept under review considering the latest scientific evidence and public health advice. The latest advice can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/higher-education-reopening-buildings-and-campuses.

Furthermore, my right hon. Friend, the Secretary of State for Education, wrote to education leaders on 8 July 2021, setting out plans as we move towards Step 4. This included the government’s expectation that HE providers offer students a full, enriching and enjoyable experience, whilst staying as safe as possible. The letter is available to read here: https://educationhub.blog.gov.uk/2021/07/08/a-letter-from-the-education-secretary-to-education-leaders/.

HE providers should therefore not be planning to restrict teaching based on COVID-19 restrictions. However, as autonomous institutions it is for providers to determine their own provision, taking account of government guidance. We understand that a number of universities have announced plans on teaching in the next academic year: some will retain an element of blended learning. We know that the COVID-19 outbreak has enabled many providers to identify new and innovative approaches to teaching and learning, and students will continue to benefit from these alongside in person provision. We expect all universities to act in the interest of students and provide them with a full experience and in accordance with Office for Students guidance, which can be found here: https://www.officeforstudents.org.uk/publications/guidance-for-providers-about-student-and-consumer-protection-during-the-pandemic/. HE providers should communicate clearly to their students what they can expect from planned teaching and learning so that they are able to make informed choices.

HE providers are autonomous institutions and are responsible for setting their own fees within maximum fee limits set by the regulations, where applicable. The government has already announced that maximum fees in the 2021/22 academic year will remain at £9,250 for a standard full-time course. We also intend to freeze the maximum tuition fee caps for the 2022/23 academic year to deliver better value for students and to keep the cost of higher education under control – the fifth year in succession that maximum fees have been frozen.

Whether an individual student is entitled to a refund of their tuition fees depends on the specific contractual arrangements between the provider and student. Students do have consumer rights, and it is for them to decide whether to seek to exercise these.

We recognised early on the impact the COVID-19 outbreak could have on students’ mental health and wellbeing, and we asked universities to prioritise support for this. Universities responded positively and have transformed mental health and wellbeing services. There are many examples of good practice in this area. Many universities have been actively reaching out to vulnerable students to proactively offer additional support.

We have worked closely with the OfS, to provide up to £3 million to fund the mental health platform Student Space. We have asked the OfS to allocate an additional £15 million towards student mental health, through proposed reforms to strategic priorities grant funding.

Going forward, HE providers should continue to be innovative in how they identify issues and support their students. This includes identifying appropriate technology to flag potential issues and enable students to engage in a variety of ways. As a government, we will continue to review the situation and our support in this area.


Written Question
Educational Institutions: Coronavirus
14 Jul 2021

Questioner: Rachael Maskell (LAB - York Central)

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, if he will ensure that schools, colleges and universities work with local public health teams to ensure that the safest protocols are in place as the covid-19 lockdown restrictions are further eased.

Answered by Nick Gibb

When moving to Step 4, the Department’s aim is to balance the risks associated with COVID-19 whilst moving to a ‘steady state’ that minimises both the burden of implementing the system of controls on staff and parents and the impact that those measures have on young people’s education.

Local health protection teams continue to play a role in supporting nurseries and schools as restrictions are eased. Schools and nurseries will already have contingency plans setting out what they will do if they have a COVID-19 outbreak, or if they were advised to use any of the measures described in the contingency framework, which were also known as outbreak management plans.

As part of their outbreak management responsibilities, local health protection teams, working with local authorities and directors of public health, may advise individual schools and nurseries, or a cluster of closely linked schools and nurseries, to temporarily re-introduce some control measures. Given the detrimental impact that restrictions on education can have on children and young people, any measures in schools and nurseries should only ever be considered as a last resort, kept to the minimum number of settings or groups possible and for the shortest amount of time possible.

Where health protection teams, local authorities or directors of public health judge that wider containment action is needed and wish to limit attendance across an area, they should work with their regional partnership team to escalate a proposal to the central Local Action Committee command structure.

The Education Contingency Framework outlines the principles of managing local outbreaks of COVID-19, including responding to variants of concern, in nurseries and schools. The framework can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-local-restrictions-in-education-and-childcare-settings/contingency-framework-education-and-childcare-settings.

All nurseries and schools should continue to have outbreak management plans outlining how they would operate if any measures described in the contingency framework were recommended for their setting or area.

The Department has worked closely with the Department of Health and Social Care and Public Health England to revise guidance for nurseries, schools and universities from Step 4. The Department will continue to keep these measures under review in partnership with health experts and informed by the latest scientific evidence and advice.


Written Question
Universities: Coronavirus
14 Jul 2021

Questioner: Rachael Maskell (LAB - York Central)

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what additional support he plans to provide to universities to support students who are self-isolating, from September 2021.

Answered by Michelle Donelan

From the 16 August and as part of Step 4 of the government’s COVID-19 roadmap, double vaccinated people and people under 18 years old will no longer be legally required to self-isolate if they are identified as a close contact of a positive COVID-19 case.

It remains vitally important that universities continue to make sure that students feel as supported as possible, should they have to self-isolate. This robust package of support needs to include mental health and wellbeing support, daily communications and ensuring students have access to suitable free or affordable food.

Universities UK have also produced a checklist for providers to support students who are required to self-isolate as well as bespoke guidance for higher education providers on how to prepare for and care for international students or students who are required to self-isolate on arrival in the UK.

The Office for Students (OfS) has published a statement on support for students in self-isolation during the COVID-19 outbreak. Some students may be eligible for a one-off payment of £500 through the NHS Test and Trace Support Payment scheme if they are required to self-isolate. We will continue to review the situation moving forward.

We also recognise that many students are facing additional mental health challenges due to the disruption and uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 outbreak. Protecting student wellbeing is vital during these difficult times, and it is important that students can still access the mental health and wellbeing support they need.

We have asked the OfS to allocate £15 million towards student mental health in 2021/22 (from September) through proposed reforms to Strategic Priorities grant funding, to help address the challenges to student mental health posed by the transition to university, given the increasing demand for mental health services. This will target those students in greatest need of such services, including vulnerable groups and hard to reach students.


Written Question
Universities: Coronavirus
13 Jul 2021

Questioner: Marsha De Cordova (LAB - Battersea)

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what recent guidance he has provided to universities on returning to face-to-face teaching for the 2021-22 academic year as covid-19 restrictions are eased.

Answered by Michelle Donelan

Following the announcement to move forward to Step 4 of the government’s Roadmap, we can confirm there will be no further restrictions on the provision of in-person teaching and learning in the autumn term in higher education (HE) settings.

HE providers should continue to conduct risk assessments based around their particular circumstances and should implement sensible and proportionate control measures which follow the health and safety hierarchy of controls to reduce the risk to the lowest reasonably practicable level. HE providers should have contingency plans to deal with any identified positive cases of COVID-19 or outbreaks.

We have updated our guidance to the sector in preparation for Step 4: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/higher-education-reopening-buildings-and-campuses.

As COVID-19 vaccination is now being offered to everyone aged 18 and over, all students and staff should be encouraged to participate in the programme and take up the offer of both doses of the vaccine.

HE providers should communicate clearly to their students on what they can expect from planned teaching and learning, in current circumstances and in different scenarios, and the changes that might need to be made in response to changing public health advice, so that they are able to make informed choices.