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Students returning home during Christmas closures

The presidents of NUS UK, NUS Scotland, NUS Wales and NUS-USI, alongside 120 students and student representatives have today (29th October) called on Education Ministers across the four nations to provide a plan to get students home for Christmas.

Their asks include:

  • For a plan to get students home for Christmas and other religious and significant events to be released as soon as possible, to give students and education providers time to prepare
  • For additional support for those who cannot or choose not to leave their term time address
  • For international students to be offered assistance to travel to their home countries if they choose to

Larissa Kennedy, NUS UK National President, said –

“Students have been let down time and time again during this term. They have been lied to about how their courses would be delivered, and forced back on to campus to continue paying rent. Now it is time for the governments to start to put this right and ensure they are able to travel home for Christmas.”

Becky Ricketts, NUS Wales President, said –

“There must be a clear and safe plan for the return of students to their homes over Christmas. This has been the most difficult and challenging time for students in years, and it's vital that all four governments across the UK do what needs to be done to make the best decision for students and the community."

Matt Crilly, NUS Scotland President, said –

“We need to see a clear and coherent plan from all four UK Governments that gets students home for the winter break – and urgently.

“This continued uncertainty does nothing for students’ mental health and wellbeing and the priority now needs to be ensuring that every student who wants to, can return safely home to their friends and families over the Christmas period.”

Ellen Fearon, NUS-USI President, said –

“The effects of this pandemic are already taking their toll on student mental health, and we have seen students struggle with extended periods of self-isolation with limited social contact. It is essential that we get the end of term right. This period is so important to so many people, and students are no different.

Dear Secretary of State, Cabinet Secretary and Ministers,

Students returning home during Christmas closures

On behalf of students across the UK, we are writing to all relevant ministers across the UK to ask for further information on how you plan to ensure that students are able to return to their non-term-time address, if they choose to do so, for the Christmas period, and for other religious festivals and significant events which students celebrate. We welcome that cross-nations discussions have been taken forward on this issue. We are also calling for you to do this in a way that limits the impact that it will have on students across the UK.

Fundamentally, it is crucial that students should not be treated any differently to other members of the public when it comes to restrictions in place to prevent the spread of coronavirus. However, we must also recognise that most students are in a unique position as they form part of two households, their term-time address and typically a home address. We believe there needs to be a clear and coherent plan published urgently to ensure that students are able to leave their campus for the Christmas period, if they choose to do so, and to ensure that provisions are in place to support this.

It is essential that the adoption of any system must come with ample lead-in time to allow students, colleges and universities with halls to adequately prepare. We believe that the best way to ensure that students are able to return home for Christmas, and other significant events, is for your governments to design a strategy that includes universal testing, staggered departure dates and most importantly compassion shown towards all students.

Additionally, support must be put in place for those students whose term-time address is their only address, students who cannot return home or who choose not to leave their campuses over Christmas. Support must also be put in place for international students to assist them in travelling home during this period, or providing them with additional support if they are not able to due to travel restrictions. We believe Governments must support universities and colleges to ensure that staying on campus during the Christmas break is a safe and comforting experience and that students have access to facilities including catering (even if they are in non-catered halls), post rooms and mental health support.

We welcome any constructive steps you are taking, or already have planned, request you consider our suggestions and again urge you to urgently develop and publish a plan to ensure students can return home safely.

We look forward to receiving your reply.

Yours sincerely,

Larissa Kennedy,    Matt Crilly,              Becky Ricketts,         Ellen Fearon,        

President                  President                  President                    President

NUS UK                    NUS Scotland            NUS Wales                  NUS-USI


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