A Coventry MP has accused the Government of ‘sacrificing student welfare’ after thousands in university halls were forced into isolation.
Dozens of universities have reported outbreaks of coronavirus, with some moving all their teaching online.
Some students have questioned why they were told to return to universities in the first place and there has been confusion over when they can return home to see their families.
Zarah Sultana, who represents Coventry South, blasted the government today (September 29), suggesting students had been told to return because the ‘marketised higher education system’ needed students’ tuition fees and rents.
Coventry is home to two universities.
Ms Sultana acknowledged her suggestion was cynical – and added that the other explanation for the situation was ‘straightforward Government incompetence’.
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Education secretary Gavin Williamson said he wants youngsters to be able to continue to benefit from education – at which point Ms Sultana could be seen shaking her head and saying ‘it’s not safe’.
Mr Williamson also said that it is not just students who are having to self-isolate if they have coronavirus symptoms but everyone – and it would be wrong to have one rule for students and another for everyone else.
He maintained the Government’s approach is the ‘right approach’.
What was said?
Ms Sultana said: “Students are asking why they have been sent to university halls only to be locked in their rooms and to rightly receive online teaching.
“The University and College Union and the National Union of Students warned what would happen but the Government ignored them.
“One answer, Mr Speaker, maybe a cynical answer, is that the marketised higher education system needed students to return. It needed their tuition fees. It needed their rents. And that’s why student welfare has been sacrificed.
“So I ask: is the cynic right or is this straightforward Government incompetence?”
Mr Williamson replied: “I find the honourable Lady’s question sort of…I know the honourable Lady feels very passionate about this but what we want to see is actually youngsters to be able to go back to university to be able to benefit from education, be able to benefit from learning and the honourable Lady is equally aware that it is not just students that if they’re displaying symptoms that have to get tests and may have to self-isolate.
“It’s not just those who have got in contact with those students. It’s actually the whole of society.
“It’s something we’re having to deal with as a nation and that is what is so important and we cannot be having one rule for students and another rule for the rest of the population and it is the right approach to ensure we continue to do everything we can to control this virus.”