A mass student exodus is set to take place in England over a six day period early next month in order to travel home in time for the winter holidays, with mass testing being carried out by individual universities beforehand.

The government has asked that after the national restrictions finish on 2 December, students return home in a “student travel window” from 3-9 December, in order to minimise the risk of transmission. According to an email sent by KCL, a Covid-19 testing programme at university is set to begin as early as 30 November to ensure students get home in time for Christmas. Students who test positive have to remain in self-isolation for 10 days before being able to travel.

In a guidance by the Department of Education, it has been stated that should students wish to travel after 9 December, they “will run the risk of having to undertake a period of isolation of up to 14 days at university, if they contracted Coronavirus (COVID-19) or were identified as a contact of someone who had, and would therefore be at risk of not being able to travel home for the end of term break”.

Universities have also been asked to put all learning online by 9 December, in order to allow adequate time for students to complete self-isolation before Christmas, if they develop symptoms or have been contact-traced. However, clinical placements will be able to continue as normal and postgraduate research students will be allowed to conduct in-person research.

King’s College London outlined their plans to support students returning home in a statement released on Thursday, in which they summarised the new guidelines and announced end of term Covid-19 testing for students and staff members in line with the government guidance.

The College has said that until the national restrictions end, students must “stay at their current term-time accommodation, travelling only for specific purposes such as study, exercise and essential goods”. KCL has also said that students staying in residences or in London during break will be provided support by the university.

Furthermore, the university aims to begin testing on 30 November for both staff and students who have been going on campus or living in a King’s residence. While it is not compulsory, students are strongly advised to take a test before travelling home. The full details of their testing scheme will be released later in the week.

As of yet, there are no concrete plans for the start of term in January 2021, however the College has stated that it is “working on plans for testing for the start of the new term” as students and staff return to campus, and that there will be further updates shortly with additional details.

More information about government guidance for university students can be found here.

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