A survey of 117 universities by the Sunday Telegraph has found that 51 of them are going beyond the guidance issued by the Department for Education. Ewan Somerville has more.
Universities should not force students to wear masks as they have “sacrificed enough”, a minister has said as eleven Russell Group institutions keep rules in place.
Michelle Donelan, the Universities Minister, joined the student watchdog in rebuking vice-chancellors who are still imposing curbs despite England’s last remaining restrictions being ditched.
Guidance from the Department for Education says that “face coverings are no longer advised for students, staff and visitors in teaching settings or communal areas”.
But an analysis has found eleven of the 24 leading Russell Group universities – and a total of 51 universities across the country – are going beyond DfE guidance despite last month’s rule relaxation.
Just 21 of the 117 universities surveyed had mask policies in line with the DfE, sparking fury from parents and students, while the others were unclear or out of date.
The University of Bristol is still telling all staff and students they are “required to wear a face covering inside buildings on campus”, including teaching spaces, corridors, libraries, reading rooms and study spaces, though residences are exempt. It describes masks as “a sign of respect, kindness, and sensitivity to each other”.
Meanwhile, London School of Economics guidance says masks are still mandatory in lifts and for “students in all teaching rooms”. UCL also “expects” masks in teaching areas, as does the University of Leeds when staff ask for them.
Oxford University’s guidance says: “Departments, as well as individual members of teaching staff, can continue to mandate face coverings in teaching and learning environments (unless individuals are exempt). Face coverings are strongly encouraged in libraries and should be worn when moving around university buildings.”
Responding to the findings, Ms Donelan told the Telegraph: “I do not believe universities should be going beyond our guidance by imposing additional, mandatory, restrictions on students.
“Young people have already sacrificed enough during this pandemic and students should be able to enjoy the full university experience they deserve.”
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