By Shivika Singh | News Editor
In an attempt to promote vaccination among young people, the UK government has been reportedly considering the idea of making full COVID-19 vaccination mandatory for students if they want to return to college and university campuses this autumn. However, according to updated news reports, vaccine passports would not be required for university campuses.
Boris Johnson is said to have been “raging” about the low rates of vaccination among young people and is keen to encourage more of them to get the jab.
According to previous reports by The Times, the Prime Minister proposed making the vaccine passports compulsory for students in higher education during virtual meetings he held at Chequers over the past weeks.
In an interview the Education Minister, Vicky Ford, refused to rule out the idea that the government was considering banning un-jabbed students from university campuses. She stated that “Ministers had to consider everything “. Further during an interview with BBC Radio 4, she indicated- We’ve always considered everything we can do to make sure [students] are safe in education. And the key thing to get infection down is to make sure people get their vaccination.”
However, the Department for Education (DfE) is believed to be concerned regarding the legality and practicalities involved in enforcing any ban on students.
Prior to this, The University and College Union (UCU) had written to the education secretary, Gavin Williamson, warning that the COVID-19 chaos seen in universities last year will be repeated unless strict measures are in place to protect staff and students. According to the Union, all students must be double vaccinated before the start of the new academic year in September, with jabs made available to younger students in further education.
UCU also proposed that universities must “provide and mandate” the wearing of high-quality face masks by both staff and students, access to free PCR tests, and funding from the government to support education recovery.
However, Universities in UK are sceptical about this proposal and are reported to believe that forcing students to prove their vaccination status to attend lectures or live-in halls of residence would be effectively unworkable, after ministers refused to rule out the idea.
The student Unions are also questioning the government’s possible plan of banning un-jabbed students from attending offline university. The National Union of Students condemned the idea, saying the government appeared to be “lining students up as scapegoats for its own failings”.
Although there is still uncertainty regarding the mandatory vaccine passports, the BBC reported on July 31 that the government is no longer considering making it mandatory for university students to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 to attend lectures in England. The governments of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are in charge of their own coronavirus rules and education policy.
It is also worth mentioning that from the end of September, ministers have said people will need proof of full vaccination to attend nightclubs and other crowded venues in England.
Wales online reported on July 22 that Universities in Wales are asking students to have their COVID-19 jabs before the term begins September.
The body representing all eight universities in Wales made the call as vice chancellors said COVID-19 restrictions, such as online lectures, masks and social distancing, will remain but there will be more face-to-face teaching.
Universities are setting up their own vaccination centres in an attempt to make campuses as safe as possible for the autumn term. And with millions of students arriving in September, some universities have already opened campus vaccination centres. Other UK universities, including Cardiff, have confirmed they are in discussions about setting up vaccination services.
While at present, the large live lectures are expected to be held online, more in person teaching can be expected in the form of seminars, smaller lectures and laboratory tutorials.
Cardiff University has also stated that in line with other Russell Group Universities, it expects teaching from September to see more in person teaching for smaller lectures, tutorials, seminars, lab work and workshops.