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About 40 universities across the UK have now reported cases of coronavirus, and thousands of students are self-isolating as the new semester begins.

Aberystwyth University is the latest to have suspended face-to-face teaching to curb the spread of Covid-19.

But a spokesman for the prime minister said the students would be able to go home for the holidays.

In Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon said ensuring students return home for Christmas would be a priority.

Fee refund

On whether students in England should recover fees, for example if teaching is online, a spokesperson for the Prime Minister said universities were independent and would make their own decisions about fees.

Some students have questioned why they are told to leave home and pay for accommodation when most of the teaching is done remotely.

The Labor Party called on the government to consider stopping the return To universities, rather than risking more Covid outbreak and students’ self-isolation.

There are no official figures from the government, regulators or UK universities – but tracking local reports indicates that around 40 universities have had Covid cases so far – out of around 130 universities in total.

In Wales, Aberystwyth University said that effective Monday in-person tutoring will be temporarily suspended and courses will be taught online.

A university spokesperson said: “This was a difficult call, partly driven by the uncertainty surrounding the extent of the spread within our community.”

Online teaching

At Manchester Metropolitan University, all first-year and foundation-year classes will be online for the next 14 days.

At the University of Essex a A host of cases have been linked to sports teams.

Universities affected by the Coronavirus include:

Several universities have promised students a mix of teaching in person and online, raising questions about whether they should be refunded if teaching is online only or if they have to pay for college accommodation if all of their lessons are delivered remotely.

Shadow Labor’s Education Secretary Kate Green said the option to reduce student fees should remain “completely on the table.”

She told the BBC that she understood that students might feel that they “did not get the education they expected, and that they paid too much for it,” but that she accepted that many universities “are going through very difficult financial conditions.”

Nicola Dandridge, of the Student Office, said students “have legal rights” but that tuition refunds are “a question of the government.”

She told BBC Radio 4 Today: “If students feel that they are not getting what was shown to them, they should definitely raise it with their university, and they have the right to file a complaint with the university’s ombudsman.”

Joe Ward is a student at Manchester Metropolitan University – where students said they were prevented from leaving their residence by security guards and police.

“If I knew this was the way things were going and that things would only be available online, I would definitely have reconsidered enrolling in university this year,” Joe, who lives in an apartment with seven others, told the BBC.

“I would definitely like to think that there might be some kind of compensation, but at the same time I understand that for the university it is also very difficult for them, it’s all very new for them as well.

“It is difficult for both parties but we would definitely appreciate more contacts, which are starting to appear now but are still early days.”

His roommate, Natasha Kucherruk, said the initial shutdown “caused a lot of panic,” saying the university “should have been prepared and organized before sending an email saying we’re closed.”

There has been an outbreak of Covid in around 40 universities across the UK so far – and there is a great chance that this number will rise as more universities start the semester.

It is not exactly the college experience students envision.

The early years may be anxious about moving away from home, but now they may also be anxious about not being able to return, should they end up in the outbreak and are forced to isolate themselves.

They are promised a mixture of face-to-face and online teaching – but the balance seems to be shifting more towards online lessons.

This means less personal time with students and other staff and more hours squeezed in their rooms with online registrations and academic transcripts from Zoom meetings.

Universities are stuck in their narrow corner. They are under pressure from lecturers to switch to teaching online and getting students home, rather than creating a loop tape of the COVID-19 outbreak.

But that would spark angry demands for refunds on accommodation and fees.

Universities cherish their independence, but in this case they may feel as though they are waiting for someone else to make a decision on their behalf.

Larissa Kennedy, president of the National Union of Students, said the federation “has long advocated for online learning to be the default.”

A statement from UK universities said: “The sector has put in place numerous safety and health measures – on campus and in student housing – to reduce risks.

“Some teaching, support and social activities are provided personally by most universities as they can be provided in a socially distant manner.”

Coronavirus restrictions in Scotland currently prohibit people from visiting other homes in their own homes – which means students cannot return home to another address in Scotland from university housing for a short stay without a reasonable excuse, such as a family emergency.

However, New guidelines issued by the Scottish government It shows that students can return home in the long term.

Students who have been told to self-isolate can return home if they need support to do so, including physical, financial, or mental health support.

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