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Universities vow to ensure students can access essentials during self-isolation

By Eleanor Busby, PA Education Correspondent

Vice-chancellors have pledged to support students who have to self-isolate in university halls when campus outbreaks occur.

Universities UK (UUK), which represents 139 institutions, has published a checklist to help universities support student wellbeing in the autumn term as they face a variety of challenges amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Universities should ensure that students have access to basic necessities during self-isolation, including food, laundry services, cleaning materials, bin bags, tissues and toilet rolls, the guide says.

It comes after students have hung signs out their windows claiming they did not have food.

More than 50 universities in the UK have confirmed cases of coronavirus as students return to campus.

A surge in cases has led to thousands of students having to self-isolate in their halls, including Manchester Metropolitan and Glasgow University.

Nearly 500 students and staff at Sheffield University have tested positive for Covid-19 since the start of term, and more than 750 students are self-isolating at Northumbria University after testing positive.

But UUK president Professor Julia Buckingham, vice-chancellor of Brunel University, said that the vast majority of students are being “looked after extremely well” by universities during lockdown measures.

When asked on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme about students who say they have no food, she said: “I am sure there are cases where things haven’t gone quite as well as we would have hoped.

“But I am confident that the vast majority of students are being very, very well supported by their university.”

The checklist suggests that universities should encourage students to disclose any pre-existing or current mental health issues, and encourage them to use student wellbeing and mental health support services.

Institutions could provide a Covid-19 contact, where affected students can report symptoms and seek support, and offer online activities to help maintain social interactions during self-isolation.

A fresh commitment from the UUK, also published on Tuesday, says: “We reject any attempt to blame or single out students and will work closely with student unions to support safe behaviours and social interactions.

“We will ensure that, when outbreaks occur, students are fully supported to self-isolate.”

Alistair Jarvis, chief executive of UUK, said: “Self-isolation is key to containing the spread of Covid-19.

“Where it is necessary for students to self-isolate, university staff and students’ unions are making huge efforts to take care of both their physical and emotional wellbeing, including access to testing and health care, mental health support, continuing learning online, safe social interaction, food deliveries, laundry, and financial support.”

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