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Information about higher education and student support during the coronavirus pandemic.

First published:
23 October 2020
Last updated:

Coronavirus guidance for students

What are the rules on teaching at universities?

Universities will continue to provide a combination of in person teaching and blended learning. This will minimise the need to travel and will allow students to work from home as well as attend essential in person teaching and learning sessions.

While incidents of COVID-19 have risen in the student population, evidence shows this is taking place outside the teaching and learning environment. Universities are operating COVID-secure campuses and adhering to strict social distancing. Coronavirus cases amongst staff remain low.

You are able to continue travelling to and from university for educational purposes. You should try and limit this to essential activity.

If you live off campus, you are able to commute to university to access education when necessary.

Universities have worked hard to enable learning to take place in a COVID-secure environment this year, based on Welsh law and Welsh Government guidance. Much has been done to change the provision of teaching and adapt to the situation so that students can undertake their studies as safely as possible throughout the pandemic.

You should contact your university if you have any concerns. They are best placed to support you and alleviate any concerns you may have.

Higher education institutions are responsible for the planning and delivery of their provision, including determining what educational services to provide in person. The Welsh Government expects universities to consider the needs of students in providing alternative and accessible formats for both teaching and assessment. Students should be able to leave with qualifications that are a fair reflection of their abilities, whilst maintaining quality and standards. No student should be disadvantaged unfairly for studying at this time.

I don’t have access to online learning. What should I do?

We understand that all higher education institutions are making sure all learners can access e-learning, for example through loaning laptops to learners who do not have facilities at home. 

You should contact your university if you have any concerns. They are best placed to alleviate any concerns and discuss how they can help support you.

Who should I gather with?

You should only gather indoors with your household, or extended household if your household has all agreed to form one.

For most students the place where they are living is clear – their shared house, flat style accommodation, traditional style halls of residence, or your home if you commute to university for example.

In traditional style halls of residence, universities should have put in place arrangements whereby shared facilities (such as kitchens or bathrooms) are allocated to specific ‘contact groups’ in order, in effect, to replicate the kind of “household” that exists in “flat” style accommodation. The area allocated to your ‘contact group’ is the place where you are living. We expect that in a shared kitchen in a hall of residence, it should be made clear, for example that kitchen “A” is allocated to students on floor 1, rooms 1 to 12, kitchen B is for students on floor 2 rooms 13 to 24 and so on. The Welsh Government’s advice is that it should also be clearly communicated that facilities are for the exclusive use of those allocated to them and that no other student should be using those facilities. You should make sure you are following those rules. Clear signage should make students aware of this.

Gathering in your accommodation

You are free to interact with the students you live with e.g. those in your house or flat, or those in your contact group. However, be careful to keep hygiene standards high. Wash your hands! Think about keeping social distance when you interact with others if you can as this will help reduce the risk.

Gathering outside your accommodation

The rules are not different, but meeting outdoors remains safer than meeting indoors where you can.

The risk of transmission is lower outdoors than indoors, but the risk outdoors is higher now than it was in summer. This is because sunlight plays an important role in dispersing the virus. Social distancing is therefore more important than ever whether you are indoors or outdoors.

The absolute maximum number of people who can gather together is four. However, this is a maximum and not a target – the smaller the number of people who gather, the lower the risk.

You can participate in a gathering outdoors with your household and extended household.  

It is crucial that we limit, as much as possible, contact with other people. 

 

I am living in shared accommodation – how does this affect my household/extended household?

For students living in “flat” type accommodation provided by universities, where a small number of students have bedrooms and shared facilities such as a bathroom or kitchen in a self-contained unit, the flat is the place where they are living and a student’s “household” is that flat.

Similarly for students living in a shared house, the household is made up of those living in the house.

You can form an extended household with one other household, if all the members of your household agree only people from your own household or extended household can meet in your private home.

People who live alone (or only with children) are allowed to form an extended household.

Social distancing is the principal way to stop the spread of the virus and everyone must obey the rules. You can be fined if you do not. You should carefully review the guidance available.

Can I meet with people in my extended household?

People who live alone can form an extended household with one other household – so as to be treated as a single household under the rules.

For students, those who live in traditional style halls of residence can agree to be treated as a single (extended) household with another household who also lives in the same type of accommodation.

Both students can meet where either one of them is living and can gather away from those places without a reasonable excuse.

We know that coronavirus spreads easily when people socialise indoors. We also know that people tend not to stick to social distancing practices when they socialise. We need, therefore, to minimise close interaction by reducing the amount of socialising between groups of people.

The more people that interact the more people will spread the virus. We know that if you come into close contact with someone this is how the virus spreads. 

The Welsh Government knows that this is not what life is normally about, but sadly we don’t live in normal times.

Please help us by asking yourself: “Should I do this?” “Do I need to do this?” “Is it safe to do this?” Rather than “can I do this?” Think carefully about our own actions and sticking to the rules – reduce contacts, keep social distance, wash your hands, wear a face covering in public places and self-isolate if you or someone you live with has symptoms or if you are asked to be a contact tracer.

Please help us keep Wales safe.

My partner lives in another flat, can I still meet them indoors?

If you do not live in the same household as your partner you are not able to meet them indoors unless your household agrees to set up an extended household with them. There are limited exceptions to this but in practice they don’t apply unless you both live alone.

The Welsh Government knows that this is not what life is normally about, but sadly we don’t live in normal times.

Please help us by sticking to the rules. Please help us keep Wales safe.

I am self-isolating, how will I get my essentials?

Speak to your student support services at your university. If you haven’t already, tell them that you are self-isolating and require help. They will have processes set up to help with day-to-day essentials such as delivering food, laundry, medication and toiletries.

Your university should also support you with your wellbeing at this difficult time and may have buddy systems or other support networks that can help you.

There are also organisations that can help such as Mind Cymru and Student Space.

I am living at a term time address, can I go home?

If you are a student living in England, you should not travel home to Wales unless you have a reasonable excuse such as for work, accessing education or concerns about your wellbeing.

If you are studying in Wales and normally live in England, you should not travel home unless you have a reasonable excuse such as for work, accessing education or concerns about your wellbeing.

Returning home at this stage, increases the risk of spreading coronavirus to friends and family who may be more susceptible to catching coronavirus and becoming unwell.

You should remember that some of those at home will be at higher risk if they catch COVID-19 and our actions affect the lives of others.

Can family members visit me?

Family members who live in Wales are able to visit you but they should consider whether the visit could be avoided as you, and they, are at risk of spreading the virus.

We all need to try and travel as little as possible.

You should not allow anyone who you do not live with to come into your home. 

A visit increases the risk of spreading coronavirus to friends and family who may be more susceptible to catching coronavirus and becoming unwell.

I am worried about my health and wellbeing and feeling very isolated?

The Welsh Government is aware that universities in Wales have a range of activities aimed at supporting students’ mental health and wellbeing, supported by funding made available by the Welsh Government.

This support should be extended to students who are experiencing anxiety and stress may wish to contact their student welfare services at their university or organisations such as Mind Cymru and Student Space.

There are also a number of national charities who may be able to help. We recognise how difficult a time this is for students and that they face unique issues.

If you are experiencing a significant exacerbation of your symptoms, contact your GP, NHS 111, your student support or someone you trust.

You are able to travel if you need to access support, this may include access to medical services or to provide or receive care, including for your own mental health and wellbeing.

You should download and use the NHS COVID-19 app to protect yourself and your friends and family. The app has a number of tools to protect you, including contact tracing, local area alerts and venue check-in.

Please see guidance on the NHS COVID-19 app.

What are the travel implications? Can I leave the county/country/UK? Can I go home?

If you are living in term time accommodation you should not travel home without a reasonable excuse.

If you are a student living in England, you should not travel home to Wales without a reasonable excuse.

If you are studying in Wales and normally live in England, you should not travel home without a reasonable excuse.

Further information on travel rules for entering and leaving Wales.

Is it safe to remain at university?

Yes. Universities have worked hard to ensure that their campuses are COVID-secure. The Welsh Government has developed guidance to assist the university sector in their preparations. As autonomous bodies, universities are responsible for the provision of their courses for staff and students, and all universities in Wales have ensured that students undertook their studies as safely as possible throughout the pandemic.

The evidence is clear that remaining in your university accommodation is the safest place for you to be at the moment. Whilst there have been outbreaks of COVID-19 at universities in Wales, these have been well-managed by Public Health Wales, the local health boards and the universities.

We know clusters have been contained within university communities and have not spread to the wider community, or to those who may be more prone to poorer outcomes from COVID-19 because they have particular existing health conditions, complications or they are older.

The scientific advice has been clear that there may be outbreaks among students, as with any group in society and the measures in place are designed to keep students, staff and local communities safe. The wellbeing of our young people has been at the centre of decision-making throughout the pandemic and will continue to be so.

There is a careful balancing of the risk of any potential infections and ensuring that young people – who have faced incredible disruption during the pandemic – can continue with their education and be supported by their families, their universities and this government.

Your university will have provided clear guidance to you on how you can act responsibly and minimise risk to yourselves, your family, friends and community.

This should include guidance on following the rules on only gathering within your households, on avoiding parties, on social distancing, on getting tested if symptomatic, and on self-isolating when required.

Why were students accepted back into universities, with the threat of a second wave being imminent?

The Minister for Education has prioritised the wellbeing of young people throughout the pandemic and would not have agreed to students returning to university unless she was sure it was safe to do so. All universities in Wales submitted detailed plans about how they were going to operate in a COVID-secure way.

There is a careful balancing of the risk of any potential infections and ensuring that young people, who have faced incredible disruption during the pandemic, can continue with their education and be supported by their families, their universities and this government.

Students were asked to limit their social contact to members of their household in order to reduce the spread from any students who arrived in their accommodation with the virus.

Universities have been working closely with Public Health Wales to manage the cluster outbreaks that have inevitably occurred at universities, and contained them by asking students to self-isolate. This process has been well-managed.

Whilst the limits being placed on students and the rest of the population are leading to frustrations, we are not living in normal times and these limitations have meant that higher education students can continue with their studies.

Please help us keep you, your university community, your family and friends safe by following the rules.

Can I meet people I don’t live with in my garden?

Gardens are treated as part of the home. That means you can only meet the people in your extended household or bubble there. The same applies to visiting other people in their gardens.

I’m travelling to Wales from outside the UK. Can I still come?

Yes, access to education is a reasonable excuse to travel to Wales and so is moving home.

Our international students are a welcome part of our communities in Wales. International students, from certain countries outside the UK will need to comply with the self-isolating requirements for their first 14 days in Wales. 

Please see the list of countries exempt from the 14 day self-isolation rules in Wales and the Coronavirus (COVID-19): travel corridors, UK Government

However, if you are travelling from countries not on the list of exempt countries, outside the UK, you will need to self-isolate for 14 days. This means students will not be able to leave the place they are staying for the first 14 days they’re in the UK (known as ‘self-isolating’). This is because it can take up to 14 days for coronavirus symptoms to appear. 

You should speak to your university as they will be able to support you in the self-isolation period.

Contact with others

Self-isolation means you should not have visitors, including friends and family, unless they are providing essential care. The only friends and family students can have contact with are those who travelled with them or the people they are staying with. The people they are with should also self-isolate.

People you travelled with

Where you travelled together with other students and you are sharing accommodation, you can continue to have contact amongst yourselves, but it is recommended that where possible social distancing should be maintained.

Will I be able to visit the university library?

You are able to visit the library, but you should think if you can access online library services or click and collect for loans as this will help limit in-person contact and reduce the spread of the virus. Campus libraries can remain open to students and staff for educational purposes and will continue to maintain COVID-secure measures.

In the library, students must maintain social distancing, wear a face covering and adhere to the increased hygiene measures, such as hand washing and using your own surface wipes (or those provided) to clean the work area. Students must use the library independently and must not gather in study spaces, unless as part of an in-person, scheduled, seminar or tutorial.

Will I be able to use the study spaces on campus?

Study spaces on campus remain open and will continue to maintain strict COVID-secure measures.

Try to think carefully about whether you need to use these spaces as you should try to only use these spaces if you do not have a suitable place to study at home, or if you are on campus and it would not be reasonable for you to return home (or the place you live in term-time) between in-person teaching.

Your university may have a booking system in place, you should contact your student services team to find out what arrangements are in place.

Students must maintain social distancing, wear a face covering and adhere to the increased hygiene measures, such as hand washing and using your own surface wipes (or those provided) to clean the work area.

Students must use the study spaces independently and must not gather in study spaces.

I am a research student, will I be able to continue studying/working/carrying out my research at the university?

You will be able to continue your research in-person, and gather with others to carry-out that research if you are unable to do so from home. If you are able to carry out your research from home or without gathering with others then that is what you should do.

I am a researcher working at the university, will I be able to continue working at the university?

You should work from home if you can, but if your research work cannot be reasonably conducted from home you are able to go to the university.

I am a researcher in an ongoing research study, will I be able to continue taking part in this research?

If you are able to carry out your research work from home or without gathering with others, then that is what you should do.

Note for researchers: you should think whether contact with research participants in person is crucial or whether an alternative approach could be taken to allow participation without the need for contact with others.

I am a sports student, can I still use the sports facilities?

If your sporting activity is part of your education, such as a key component of your course required for learning or assessment, then you will be able to continue this activity in a COVID-secure manner during the scheduled in-person learning hours. This may include access to a sports performance exercise laboratory, for example.

You should try and think about how you exercise and whether it would be safer for you to exercise outdoors.

If you want to participate in group exercise this can be with the people you live with and your extended household

Participation in group exercise with people you do not live with must be part of an organised activity managed for example by a gym, a leisure centre or a sports club. The organisers will need to take all reasonable measures to reduce the risk of spreading the virus.

Will I be able to use the gym?

All sport and leisure facilities are now allowed to be open. The operators of these grounds and facilities must take all reasonable measures to manage risk and maintain physical distancing.

Coronavirus guidance for staff

I work in the post-16 sector, what does this mean for me?

Your employer will have risk assessed the building/s where you work and introduced procedures to ensure that your environment is COVID-secure. If necessary, you would have received a personal risk assessment or equality impact assessment specific to your personal circumstances. This may need to be reconsidered in the light of these new circumstances. If it is not safe for you to attend face to face work in university, then you should work from home.

What should I do when in work?

You should only remain in work to carry out duties that cannot be done from home.

We know that interactions between staff increase the risk of transmission. Therefore, face to face contact with other members of staff should be avoided if possible, you should think about using alternative approaches such as online meetings.

Your employer will need to ensure that any work spaces, including offices, are COVID-secure, that social distancing measures can be maintained and that strict hygiene rules are followed in the work place.

You should avoid sharing an indoor space with people you do not live with, this will include areas such as staff rooms.

You should not gather in a staff room with people who you do not live with, as this will increase your contacts and the risk of catching or spreading COVID-19.

We know that talking to people is a main contributor for spreading COVID-19. The more people you meet and speak to, the more you increase the risk to yourself and others.

We are asking people not to think primarily about what they are allowed to do, but what is the most sensible thing to do. Only through everybody trying their hardest to follow this guidance will we be able to avoid further lockdowns.

What sort of conversation should I have with a member of my team who is worried about needing to come into work?

There are a number of models which can be used to support managers during discussions with their teams about an individual’s personal risk factors when returning to, or remaining in, the workplace. The aim is to help enable good quality conversations between managers and colleagues about any personal circumstances which may increase risk from coronavirus, and to agree any actions which need to be carried out. 'Talking with your workers about working safely during the coronavirus pandemic' is guidance from the Health and Safety Executive on how employers may approach this conversation with staff.

Returning home for Christmas: students

Can I travel home for the Christmas holidays?

Yes you can, but you should check for any restrictions or travel bans which are in place for the country which you are travelling to.

Remember, you must not travel if you have symptoms, a positive test or have been asked to self-isolate by a contact tracer.

What precautions should I take?

You should consider minimising the risk of potentially spreading the virus to family and friends who may be more vulnerable to its effects by familiarising yourself with your university’s plans for the conclusion of in-person teaching, and any other arrangements to ensure a safe exit.

You should take extra care to minimise social contacts, only go out for essential purposes or exercise in the days leading up to your intended travel day, to reduce the risk of infection.

You must not travel if you test positive or are showing symptoms for COVID-19, and instead must self-isolate for 10 to 14 days before travelling.

Do I have to take a test to allow me to travel home?

We are working with our universities to offer asymptomatic lateral flow test in early December. The tests are voluntary and we are asking students and staff to opt in for the asymptomatic testing pilot. Opting to take a lateral flow asymptomatic test and taking extra care to minimise contacts will help you plan to travel over the Christmas period and may provide further reassurance that you are not putting your loved ones, or the wider population, at risk.

What happens if my travel plans were after the 9 December?

We have asked all universities to end the majority of in-person teaching by 9 December. This will help you plan to travel home for Christmas.

You may choose to take extra care before you travel home and only go out for essential purposes and to exercise and that will mean you will not travel before 9 December.

If you choose to travel home and take extra care once you get home then you should travel before 9 December and if you can, get an asymptomatic test before you travel. This should ideally be taken as close to your intended travel time as possible.

Remember, if you do not travel before 9 December and do not take extra care you put yourself at risk of developing symptoms or being identified as a close contact. This would mean you would not be able to return home until after the Christmas period.

If you take an asymptomatic test before 9 December and you test positive, this will allow you time to self-isolate at university, prior to travelling home and seeing your family for the Christmas period.

Do I have to return home for the holidays?

No, we’re aware that not all students will choose to or be able to travel home. Please let your university know if this is what you plan to do as your university will continue to offer pastoral, wellbeing and accommodation services support to those who remain in or around campuses beyond the end of term.

What happens if I receive a positive test result?

If you receive a positive Lateral Flow Test result you will be advised to immediately self-isolate. We would also recommend that you get in touch with anyone you have been in close contact with and work with the contact tracing team as part of Test, Trace, Protect, when they get in touch. Close contacts will be asked to self-isolate.

Will I have to self-isolate when I get home in December? 

You may choose to spend some time taking extra care when you get home. This is not a period of self-isolation, but a way of making responsible decisions to keep your family, friends and community safe. See our guidance to help you plan and decide what works for you and your personal circumstances.

However, you may be contacted by a contact tracer and asked to self-isolate once you get home. If this happens then you must do so.

You will need to follow any local guidance, avoid socialising, and take personal responsibility for your actions, to keep yourself, your family, friends and community as safe as possible.  

Can a family member pick me up from university? 

Yes they can. To reduce the risk to others in the car you may want to think about getting a test before you travel.

If you travel by car you are highly likely to pass any virus to the other people in the car. That is because you are in a confined space and small droplets from speaking, singing along to the radio and breathing will quickly fill that space and be breathed in by everyone in the car. We know these droplets are the main way the virus spreads.

Can I car share with another student/a friend to travel home from university?

Yes you can car share with another student or a friend. To reduce the risk to others in the car you may want to think about getting a test before you travel.

If you travel by car you are highly likely to pass any virus to the other people in the car. That is because you are in a confined space and small droplets from speaking, singing along to the radio and breathing will quickly fill that space and be breathed in by everyone in the car. We know these droplets are the main way the virus spreads.

Can I travel home on public transport?

Yes, as long as you don’t have any symptoms of coronavirus. If you are using public transport you should wear a face covering unless you are exempt, plan your journey in advance to avoid busy times and routes, wash/sanitise your hands regularly, and keep your distance while travelling where possible. You may find the Transport for Wales app helpful in planning your journey.

Is university term ending on 9 December?

No, we have asked universities to move the majority of courses to online teaching from 9 December to allow those students who plan to travel home to do so safely. You should contact your university to find out what arrangements are in place for your particular course. You will be expected to attend online lectures from wherever you’re living.

How will student return in January be organised?

We are working with ministers, officials and our universities to plan ahead for the new term in January.

Our intention is that the university testing pilot will continue to operate into the new year, and will therefore aid with any plans to return to campus and term time accommodation as safely as possible and to reduce the transmission of COVID-19.

Returning home for Christmas: parents

Will my son/daughter be able to return home for Christmas?

Yes, students at universities will be able to move back home at the conclusion of the current term. Students who want to travel home should arrange to travel no later than 9 December. However, if there is someone at home who would be considered extremely vulnerable to coronavirus, it may be sensible to consider a period of laying low and reducing contact either before travelling home or once home. This decision will be one that students and their families will need to consider.

If a student decides to lay low at their term time address before travelling, then an end to in person teaching on 8 December will mean that they will be able to do so and travel home after 9 December.

If a student needs to self-isolate as a close contact they will need to self-isolate for 14 days at their term time address, unless they have medical or care needs that mean it would not be safe for them to do so.

If a student has COVID-19 symptoms or a positive test, they will need to self-isolate at their term time address for 10 days, unless they have medical or care needs that mean it would not be safe for them to do so.

This may mean that some students will need to travel home later than 9 December but should ensure that any student will have completed their period of self-isolation and will be able to travel before 23 December.

That is why we suggest students should try to travel by the 9 December.

What precautions should we take?

You should consider the risk in your own family. To help do this, you can think about the following questions:

Do you have a person in your family that might be extremely vulnerable if they contracted COVID-19?

How responsible has your son or daughter been while at university?

Has your son or daughter had an asymptomatic test and was that negative?

Has your son or daughter reduced their social contact as much as possible to minimise the risk of potentially spreading the virus to family and friends?

You may also want to think about and discuss taking extra care by following these measures for 2 weeks either before or after they get home:

  • reduce contact with others – try not to go out as soon as you get home to meet up with friends
  • stay home and avoid going out other than for essential reasons and exercise
  • stay away from busy places and try to avoid going to places like shops if you can
  • keep social distance in your household (no hugs or kisses for now)
  • wear a face mask if you are in a room with someone else in your household
  • try and limit time you spend indoors with others in your household
  • try and spend time outdoors with others in your household – go for a socially distanced walk
  • keep windows open for good ventilation
  • try and use a different bathroom if possible or make sure you clean the bathroom before and after you use it
  • don’t share towels, cutlery, cups, glasses etc
  • wipe down high touch surfaces (door handles, light switches) regularly

It is really important that people with symptoms or a positive test (either an NHS test or a test through the university scheme) do not travel, instead he/she must self-isolate for 10 to 14 days before travelling.

Should my son/daughter social distance from the family or self-isolate over the Christmas period?

This will depend on how responsible your son or daughter has been whilst at university. You may want to discuss whether a period of extra care may help you reduce risk. 

We are asking everyone in Wales to think about what they should do rather than what they can do. This includes trying to reduce contact as much as possible, avoid socialising, and take personal responsibility for your actions, to keep you, your family and friends as safe as possible.

Is it safe for students to come home at the end of term if there is a clinically extremely vulnerable person living in the house?

This will depend on how responsible your son or daughter has been whilst at university. You may want to discuss whether a period of extra care may help you reduce risk. However it is still important to follow the guidance on shielding and protecting people who are clinically extremely vulnerable.

Are university terms ending on 9 December?

No, universities will continue teaching online but will pause the majority of in-person tuition for the remainder of the term to allow students to leave their university and travel home safely without disrupting education. Your son or daughter will be expected to attend online lectures from wherever they’re living.

Can myself or another family member go and pick my child up from university at this time?

You or one of your household can pick your child up in a private car to bring them home. However, to reduce the risk to others in the car we would recommend that your son or daughter think about getting at least one asymptomatic test before they travel. We know that if you travel by car with someone that is infectious with coronavirus, you are highly likely to catch the virus. This is because you are in a confined space and small droplets from speaking, singing along to the radio and breathing will quickly fill that space and be breathed in by everyone in the car. We know these droplets are the main way the virus spreads.

Can my child use public transport to travel home? 

As long as they don’t have any symptoms of coronavirus or have not been asked to self-isolate by a contact tracer, they can travel home on public transport. Please see the safer travel guidance.

In addition, we would recommend that they book in advance. The Transport for Wales Capacity Checker will help plan ahead.

How will students return in January be organised?

We are working with ministers, officials and our universities to plan ahead for the new term in January.

We want to minimise disruption to students’ education, but we need to continually take into account the risk of additional spread of COVID-19 in making a final decision on when students return to campuses.

Our intention is that the university testing pilot will continue to operate into the new year, and will therefore aid the planned return of students to campuses in January.

End of term testing

What is the objective of the end of term mass testing programme?

The objective is to support as many students and staff as possible to return home with a greater confidence of the risk they may or may not pose to their loved ones, so that they can conduct themselves appropriately when they get home.

How will this work?

  • We will test students and staff using Lateral Flow Devices (LFDs).
  • We want to start testing during the period of 30 Nov through to 8 December.
  • We will aim to test individuals twice.
  • If a student receives a positive LFD result they will need to immediately isolate at university in accordance with current guidance. 
  • A student testing positive will be advised to undertake a confirmatory PCR test through the usual symptomatic testing channels.

Where will the testing take place?

  • Test kits, PPE, the digital solution, online training, clinical SOPs, communications packages, engagement ‘playbook’ and site set up materials will be provided to the Universities by DHSC.
  • Universities will provide the site, testing staff, coordination with students and will align with their local health board teams.

These sites will vary in size and test capacity. We anticipate that some universities will set up several sites, whilst others will set up just one.

How many students do you expect to test?

Any student is welcome to be tested although we have encouraged the universities to focus on those students who attend university away from their home towns (non-commuting students) and who will ‘migrate’ at the end of term, therefore have the potential to transfer the virus to new communities. There should be a particular focus on students and staff who are vulnerable, or live with someone vulnerable to COVID-19.

Is this programme mandatory?

No. This is a voluntary programme both for universities and students.  We cannot compel participation nor do we wish to. 

What is the benefit of participation for universities?

Ultimately, we hope to set up an in-house, flexible capability to regularly test asymptomatic students and staff to break the chain of transmission on campus.  We wish to give students and staff confidence to continue in-person education.

How will we engage with students and encourage them to participate? 

Student and staff engagement is critical to programme success. DHSC have created an Engagement Playbook to support participating universities in their proactive and reactive communication about testing and ensure consistency with national messages. It features key messages, collateral, and templates to help universities launch comms and engagement activities before, during and after the testing activities. We recognise that a broader communication campaign is required beyond that and we’re accelerating this .

Do close contacts of a positive LFD result still have to isolate?

Yes. In Wales, contacts of individuals who have tested positive through the LFD will be asked to isolate in line with normal regulations. If the confirmatory PCR test is negative isolation can stop.

In England, close contacts of individuals who test positive can take a LFD test and if they test negative the UK Government has granted permission for those individuals to proceed home and complete their isolation at home.

What about the risk of forming large bubbles and locking up students in halls of residence before Christmas?

Positive cases will have to isolate for 10 days. With this in mind, we are working closely with the universities to test the student population in line with the planned return home date which takes into consideration an additional 10 days isolation period that would coincide with the end of term and well before Christmas. 

Longer term we are looking at how viable it would be to enable close contacts to continue in education and avoid quarantine so long as they are tested regularly (with a negative result) through the period of the index case’s isolation.

Who will cover the cost of this testing?

The UK Track & Trace programme will provide the testing booths, test kits, PPE, digital solution, training etc while universities are expected to provide the workforce. 

Have LFDs been validated?

Field-testing (final stage of the validation process) is nearing completion. We are confident that these tests are right for this use case.

The Innova LFD tests that are being used have a specificity (99.7%) which means there is very low chance of false positives. Overall, the test can detect 79% of all PCR positive cases. However, the test detects >95% of those individuals with higher viral loads (CT<27) which represents half the cases. These are the individuals who are most infectious. We are advising all those who test positive to undertake a confirmatory PCR test through the usual testing channels.

Who is managing this test programme?

This test programme in Wales is a joint DHSC (T&T), DfE and Welsh Government/NHS Wales endeavour.  A shared governance model has been developed to ensure that the sector knowledge and testing know-how are brought together effectively.

Are you going to start testing like this at all universities?

The ambition is to work with universities to continue to build testing provision at their institutions, including the use of lateral flow devices (LFDs).

The precise configuration of testing solutions will differ and different universities, depending on a range of factors including size, characteristics of the student body and operational factors.

There are many people in this country who need a test – why are you testing university students instead of other categories?

This piloting and roll out of mass asymptomatic testing does not replace the current testing regime. We are using all of the technology and innovations at our disposal and are exploring and introducing new types of testing to be used by people without symptoms to allow regular checking on whether they have the virus. These will be quick and straightforward to use and will help identify people with the virus who may not have otherwise been aware and who can then undertake appropriate isolation and safety activity to help reduce transmission.

If people are showing symptoms, they should follow the standard government guidance, including self-isolating immediately and booking a test through GOV.UK.

Can students refuse the tests?

Tests are not compulsory but will be an important tool to help students adhere to safety measures to protect themselves, their friends, family and wider community. 

Will students be legally required to take a test to return home for Christmas return to university in January?

No, it is not a legal requirement but will be an important tool to help students adhere to safety measures to protect themselves, their friends, family and wider community. However, students who experience COVID-19 symptoms should follow the standard government guidance, including self-isolating immediately and booking a test through GOV.UK.

What is our current policy for testing students? Who owns the policy? Is it likely to change according to the infection rate?

We have quickly established walk-through sites and deployed mobile test sites so that almost all universities can access tests within 1.5 miles of their main campus, allowing staff and students to get access to tests should they develop symptoms.

This policy is owned by Welsh Government. The Welsh Government is also working closely with universities to support them to keep staff and students as safe as possible. We will continue monitoring the situation and following Public Health Wales advice, adapting policies to best support students and providers.